I’ve always had a special kinship with the culinary team at Lewis & Clark College (LC), since they were the first to introduce me to Bon Appétit. As an LC alumna, I assumed my fondness for the café had to do with nostalgia for my college years. But during a recent meeting with LC students and staff about Meatless Mondays, I was listening to Sous Chef Ethan Davidsohn talk about his passion for animal welfare issues (his wife is an animal rights lawyer), and I thought to myself, “No wonder I feel a special bond with these people, we all love good food”!
Like a lot of other Bon Appétit employees, Ethan and I found our way to this company because of a shared love for creative, delicious, and sustainable food. I sat down with him to learn more about his passion for cooking and sourcing sustainably.
How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve been with Bon Appétit for five years. I’ve always loved food. I’ve worked in restaurants since age 15 and continued working in kitchens through college. When I graduated from college, I could not imagine doing anything else.
What’s the best part of your job?
I enjoy being part of the food industry because of the sheer number of people that are directly impacted by the work that I do. From the guest dining in my café, to the farmer growing the food that I prepare, to the cooks that work and learn as a part of the team; everybody gains something.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I really enjoy the summer season in Portland. Our relationship with farmers gives us access to the finest and most interesting produce. In the summertime at my house many evenings are spent grilling fresh vegetables and dining al fresco.
What’s the most fun or unusual dish you’ve prepared while at Bon Appétit?
We made vuelve a la vida for Bon Appétit’s Annual Pumpkin Ridge golf tournament in 2013. Vuelve a la vida, or “return to life” in English, includes seafood such as poached shrimp and squid, raw clams and oysters, and snapper ceviche swimming in a sauce of tomato juice and a spicy pico de gallo. At Mexico’s beachfront restaurants and urban cevicherias, the dish is served in a chilled goblet with avocado slices and a side of saltines. The combination is cool, spicy, and satisfying, and fulfills vuelve a la vida’s promise. We used 100% sustainable seafood fished from Pacific Northwest waters, including a giant Pacific octopus that weighed in at over 70 pounds!
Which of Bon Appétit’s sustainability commitments means the most to you personally, and why?
I’m a big supporter of our Farm to Fork program. Every café is required to source at least 20% of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms, ranches, and artisan producers within 150 miles of their kitchens. Not only do we get to cook with these fabulous products, but we’re also educating our guests about them, many of which are available at their local farmers market or neighborhood grocery. This helps producers grow their businesses and enables us to provide our guests with a unique dining experience that one can only find in a Bon Appétit café.
Who are your culinary role models?
Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, Mario Batali, and Rick Bayless. These three chefs have great technique focused on specific genres and make food very accessible to even the most inexperienced home cook.
What’s one food you can’t live without?
Sushi. I love the idea of the freshest fish shining in the simplest preparation. It’s a perfect irony when the simplest food results in complex flavors and textures. When I’m having a particularly challenging day, I can always count on a sushi meal to immediately lift my spirits.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy gardening and yard work, playing guitar and listening to live music. And of course doing what I love most, experiencing great food, whether that means going out to eat at a restaurant that shares my same culinary philosophies or preparing a meal in my own kitchen using the same principles that Bon Appétit holds in such high regard.