Honest Food: From HMI to La Saison

I remember a distinct moment while in Leadville, Colorado where time stopped. The snow was falling, and I was in Who’s Hall printing my final paper for History. The moment was still, beautiful, and full. Something happened in this moment—I felt accomplished. While printing my final paper, I reflected on my moments of endured challenges, tiredness, and the emotions of fulfillment, all experienced within the last four months. At times, I felt nothing existed except the present moment.

HMI’s program is balanced. No matter what style of learning one requires, HMI’s curriculum offers a hands-on approach which encourages students to grow and be engaged–whether it is in the classroom, the backcountry, or life on campus. I found my niche in the kitchen at HM, both crafting meals on campus for the whole community and with my tarp group during expeditions.  Although the ‘menus’ we created in the backcountry never tasted quite as good on campus, the excitement, shared enjoyment, and overall happiness received through cooking and sharing food sparked a passion that I followed.

In 2001, one year after my HMI experience, I attended The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. My journey at the CIA included 36 months of immersing my hands, heart, and senses into a craft established by culture, land, and the ability to express and share a simple natural pleasure needed by all—honest food!

HMI’s challenges helped me realize my passion for cooking. The curriculum, terrain, and weather all required strong will, daily effort, and an attitude that could not accept defeat. At HMI, I learned the value of working with a team. Whether it was making brownies without butter, eggs, or an oven, or sharing that last morsel of a yogurt covered pretzel, I discovered that food feeds our spirits, uplifts our attitudes, and communicates without words during the most triumphant and fragile of times.  No matter how difficult the day—whether it was cold hands, tired feet, or sunburnt lips—the nourishment received from food and the communion of sharing meals together united us as a team, ultimately pushing us to reach the next base camp.

My husband and I started our company, La Saison, a specialty foods and custom events group based in Napa Valley, California in 2007. Feeding people is our life. Although it is difficult to slow down in an industry that constantly demands the new trend, it is necessary so that I don’t forget where I have been, what I have accomplished and who I have helped along the way. I thank HMI for introducing me to a new platform for success, and helping me find my place in this vast world of possibility.

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