What do 50 chefs and managers, world famous baguettes, cocoa oil-coated cheese wheels, and 130-year old olive trees have in common? They were all part of last month’s exciting Chefs Exchange Tour, a fun, educational experience for Bon Appetit chefs and managers to learn more about food (they already know quite a bit) and to meet and mingle with colleagues from different sites.
Early Saturday morning our bus headed toward Sonoma Valley, California, an area known for its gourmet food and bountiful vineyards. First stop: Artisan Bakers. Here we received valuable lessons about bread-making by founder Craig Ponsford, who was the first non-French baker to win first place in the Baguette and Specialty Breads competition of The Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie ("the world cup of baking"). Needless to say, the baguettes we sampled (and purchased without hesitation) were world-class!
Next stop: Vella Cheese Company. Owner Ignazio "Ig" Vella greeted us and led us on a tour of his cheese factory, where the Vella family has been creaming, brining and aging specialty cheeses since 1931. Using milk from a local dairy farm, they make their award-winning cheeses the old-fashioned way with some tricks of their own (such as rubbing the cheese wheels with safflower oil, black pepper and unsweetened cocoa). My personal favorites are their Mezzo Secco, Toma and Special Select Dry Monterey Jack cheeses.
Our final destination: B.R. Cohn Winery. We paired our delicious lunch (prepared by Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Chef Dory Ford and his team) with B.R. Cohn aged Pinot Noir and Chardonnay straight from the oak barrels. And to top it off, we had the pleasure of tasting a variety of their gourmet olive oils, which are made from the 130-year old French Picholine trees surrounding the B.R. Cohn estate. What a treat!
Having been with Bon Appetit only four weeks, this was a wonderful experience for me to not only learn about food but also to meet the people who really make all that Bon Appetit magic happen. It was quite a privilege. Special thanks to the Steering Committee members for all their efforts. For more pictures of our fun-filled trip, visit www.ChefsExchange.com
Bon Appetit Chefs and Managers at B.R.Cohn Winery
-Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager