After Graduation: Starting a Wine Business

by Kim Simone

Alumna Kim Simone (May ’14) shares her post-degree career path and founding her company, Vinitas Wineworks.

kim1One of the questions I heard frequently from people while I was attending the Gastronomy program was “What are you going to do with your degree?” It’s not exactly a traditional program with built-in job training (with the exception of the culinary program.) We do it because it’s a part of who we are and what we love. I bet that most of us use the degree to forge our own way in the world of food, creating a place for ourselves in one of the many industries that pertain to our chosen field of study, be it cooking, writing, education, hospitality, and so on. I chose wine.

At the same time that I started the Gastronomy program I also jumped into the wine world, working first in a large retail store and then for a medium-sized Massachusetts wine distributor. And although I was climbing up the industry ladder, I got an idea pretty early on that a job in sales wasn’t the place for me. My real love has always been educating the public and “geeking out” over the finer points of whatever is in my wineglass. Which is why, after years of thought and planning, I founded an independent wine education and consulting company after finishing my degree last May.

Wine-is-fun-single-1080x675I specialize in wine education classes and hosting wine events for the general public. These can be either private events (e.g. tastings in people’s homes, private parties, etc.) or something bigger like a fundraiser for a nonprofit. I also provide training for those in the hospitality trades that either need some guidance within their own store or restaurant, or who need someone to train their staff to be better servers or wine consultants. My education through the Gastronomy program and the Elizabeth Bishop Wine School has really prepared me for this new role. Both the hands-on tasting classes led by Sandy Block and Bill Nesto, as well as the History of Wine class, really opened up this fabulous world to me. The most important thing I feel that I can pass on to my clients is that wine doesn’t have to be scary. It is complex, yes, but there truly is something out there for every palate. Once you learn what you like the possibilities are endless. Through my events and blog I provide the place to ask those questions that you might think are a little bit dumb and get that knowledge flowing.

Kim Simone can be reached at or

Cooking with Chef Jacques Pépin

by Claudia Catalano

Student Claudia Catalano recounts her experience cooking with Chef Jacques Pépin, one of the founders of the Gastronomy Program at BU and a celebrated chef in his own right.

Catalano & Pepin

It’s 7 pm on a Wednesday night. Eighty ticket-holding foodies sit attentively while gulping down sparkling rosé. I’m standing underneath a kitchen demonstration mirror, my hands trembling as I peel and core apples as fast as I can without losing a finger. The audience is captive, but not because of me. I could be flambéing a roast goose and they wouldn’t notice. Their eyes are fixed on the man by my side—the legendary Jacques Pépin.

I was proud and honored to be assisting the celebrated chef while he visited BU for three days. Pépin co-founded the Gastronomy program and at age 79, and he still comes to work with the culinary students each semester. The time spent with Jacques in the kitchen culminated in 2 evening events that were open to the public. For both nights, he demonstrated recipes from his 2007 book, Chez Jacques, while discussing his philosophy on food and his journey as an artist. Besides being a prolific author and beloved television personality, Jacques is also a painter.

Chicken Galantine

The menu was the same for both dinners and reflected simple traditions from his lifetime of cooking. We started with fromage forte—a savory cheese spread made from odds and ends of leftover cheese (camembert, stilton, chèvre, cheddar, anything!), garlic, white wine, and a generous pinch of black pepper. Packed into little crocks and served with freshly made croutons, it was a quintessential product of his humble upbringing and resourceful approach to cooking.

We also made duck liver pâté with shallots, duck fat, ground bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, and a few glugs of good cognac. The students hovered around an extra crock and slathered the rich earthy spread on the same crisp croutons.

pepin2While he demonstrated the dishes, cracked jokes, and told stories from his early years in New York, the students buzzed around behind the scenes to churn out scores of plated portions for every other course. With the help of Pépin’s longtime friend and equally accomplished chef, Jean-Claude Szurdak, we had been prepping and cooking for the event all day. After the fromage and pâté, we made truffle and pistachio sausage with warm leek and potato salad. Ground pork shoulder was seasoned with pickling salt, white wine and garlic, and then combined with chopped truffles and pistachios. Logs were rolled tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, and left to cure in the refrigerator for four days (these were made ahead). On the afternoon of service, we poached the sausages and cut thick slices to serve atop the potatoes.

pepin4For the main course we made chicken thighs with morel sauce and rice pilaf. The sauce was enhanced with the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms, fruity white wine, the pan drippings, and cream. It was the perfect marriage of elegance and comfort food. To cap off the meal, we baked rustic apple tarts with hazelnut frangipane.

Amidst all the prepping and cooking for the big events, Jacques still found the time to teach us how to bone a whole chicken for galantine—a task I’ve seen him perform on videos and TV. He’s so approachable, it’s easy to forget how accomplished he really is. But when I watched him work I realized I was observing a man with a lifetime of embodied kitchen knowledge – knowledge that flows out of his fingers with ease and grace.

In addition to the perfected techniques and beautifully executed dishes, there’s so much more I took away from my three days with Jacques and Jean-Claude. So much that I had to boil it down to “Jacques’ credo”:

1) A chef is a craftsman before he is an artist. A young chef who is trying to be “creative” is like a writer who doesn’t have a good grasp of grammar—it just doesn’t work.

2) Good food should be simple.

3) Home is the best restaurant.

4) For experienced cooks, a recipe is an expression of one moment in time.

5) Food does more than fill a biological need. It can mean love, home, comfort…

6) The best food is the food you know (Jacques isn’t interested in what he called a “plated unborn vegetable”).

7) You can make a convincing “Champagne” by mixing white wine with Pabst Blue Ribbon (this one I got from Jean-Claude at the after-party!).

8) Great food is even better when shared with friends and the people you love. So if nerves get to you in the heat of the kitchen or you dropped your tart on the floor, just relax and have another glass of wine. As long as you keep good company, everyone will still have a good time.

Culinary Tourism in Tanzania

by Carlos C. Olaechea

Student Carlos C. Olaechea shares some gastronomic images of his spring break trip to Tanzania.

This spring break, I went on a tour of northern Tanzania along with fellow gastronomy student Keith Duhamel and Interim Faculty Coordinator Mary Beaudry as part of Dr. Samuel Mendlinger’s course on economic development via tourism in the developing world.  In addition to viewing the wildlife that makes this region of Africa a unique tourist destination, we also participated in lectures offered by local experts on tourism, conservation, and community development.

As a gastronomy student, I naturally focused my attention on the local food culture as we drove past coffee plantations, paddies, fields of maize, and herds of zebu cattle.  We were able to learn about agricultural practices and traditional foods and beverages, as well as sample the cuisines of the various native and immigrant groups that call Tanzania home.

The course, offered by Metropolitan College’s Administrative Sciences department and open to gastronomy students interested in tourism development, is offered each spring semester.  It is advisable to take one other tourism course in the department, such as Cultural Tourism (ML 692), prior to taking this course.  For more information about the course, as well as other tourism courses, please visit the Administrative Sciences website.

Local root vegetables are offered alongside traditional English breakfast items such as beans, grilled tomatoes, and sausages.
a meat stew and rice at a roadside cafe. The food is traditionally cooked on charcoal braziers, filling the space with a smokey aroma
preparing leafy greens at a roadside cafe
Hotels and lodges offer guests boxed lunches to take with them on safari. They typically feature a banana and packaged mango nectar produced in the capital, Dar Es Salaam.
Listening to a talk about banana cultivation on a cultural tour of Mto W Ambu, a town renowned for its bananas, plantains, and rice.
a patch of leafy greens in Mto W Ambu
A heard of zebu cattle – a breed known for its hardiness and ubiquitous in Tanzania – in Mto W Ambu. Cattle herding is one of the primary livelihoods of the Maasai people of the region
A dinner buffet at Rhino Lodge in Ngorongoro Conservation area feature continental and local fare, including ugali – a cornmeal porridge – and peas in a tomato and coconut milk sauce.
The national beer. Safari beer is also another type of lager available in Tanzania, as well as Tusker, a Kenyan variety. Tanzania also produces its own brand of gin called Konyagi, which is sweeter and has less juniper than the European and American varieties.
Women selling plantains on the side of the road.
skewers of beef, a traditional Maasai dish called Nyama Choma, is a popular street food throughout this region of Tanzania. Each skewer costs about 1,000 Tanzanian shillings, the equivalent of 50 cents.
Banana and sprouted red millet beer, the specialty of the Chaka people. Originally from the area surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro, many tribe members moved to the town of Mto W Ambu. The beverage provides a great deal of vitamins and probiotics, and after Protestant missionaries discouraged its consumption, the health of local populations declined significantly.
Enjoying the famous red bananas of Mto W Ambu.
sweet, non alcoholic malt beverages and plantain chips are a popular snack throughout the region, and both are available at the rest stops within Serengeti National Park.
A guava vendor in the town of Arusha, where we began our expedition.
The central market of Arusha
An artful display of fresh okra at the central market in Arusha.
A variety of legumes, a local staple, at the central market in Arusha.
Two important seasonings: dried anchovies (middle) and scotch bonnet chiles or “pili pili” (right). On the bottom left are chunks of clay that women consume, especially when they are pregnant.
Freshly ground Tanzanian coffee at the Arusha central market.
brightly colored and flavored baobab seeds are a popular children’s snack, who suck the acidic pulp and spit out the brown seeds. Apparently, it is inappropriate for adults to indulge in them…but that didn’t stop me.
The salad and chutney bar at Khan’s BBQ. By day, Mr. Khan, a Pakistani expat, runs a mechanic shop, and by night, grills brimming with kebabs line Mosque Street behind the central market in Arusha. Although the salads and chutneys have South Asian influences, they are uniquely Tanzanian.
Mutton and beef cooking on a charcoal grill at Khan’s BBQ
Red tinged tandoor chicken at Khan’s BBQ
Freshly made jilebis, a crispy snack soaked in sugar syrup, are the perfect sweet end to a meal at Khan’s BBQ
Local custard apple, passionfruit, and guava from the central market in Arusha supplemented the breakfast buffet on our last day in Tanzania.


The Inside Scoop on BU’s Culinary Lab

by Claudia Catalano

Student Claudia Catalano presents her daily experiences in the BU Gastronomy culinary lab on her new blog.

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Since I began pursuing my MLA in Gastronomy in 2012, I’ve always dreamed of taking the Culinary Lab. I’m a good home cook, but I’ve never been formally trained in proper French technique, food safety, how to perfect timing, or how to cook for big crowds. Yet for the past two and a half years, I would make excuses about how impractical it would be to enroll. It’s a big commitment, but I finally decided in December that I would be full of regret if I didn’t include the lab as part of my Gastronomy degree. So I took a leave of absence from my job (yikes!) and now spend 4 days a week, from 10:30 AM to 6:oo PM, at 808 Commonwealth Avenue, the home of the BU Gastronomy program.

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What a fulfilling way to be spending my time. Not only am I being introduced to professional cooking techniques, but I also have the privilege of learning from 21 well-respected chefs who will be teaching the program this semester. Michael Leviton of Lumiere, Mary Ann Esposito of PBS, Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, and Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar are just a few of the talented instructors with whom I will work during the 14-week class. And, of course, there is the much-anticipated 2-day segment taught by the program’s co-founder, Jacques Pépin. What a thrill!

As part of the course assignments, I am required to keep a daily journal of my class experiences. I have decided to treat mine as a blog, which you can view here: If you’re thinking about enrolling in the Culinary Lab, this is an inside view. Take a look and you may decide to make your dream a reality, too.

The Culinary Lab is offered each semester and meets Monday through Thursday from 10:30 AM to 6:00 PM.  Besides counting as elective credits in the Gastronomy MLA program, students who successfully complete the lab receive a Certificate in Culinary Arts from Boston University.

Working at Momofuku Milk Bar

by Kendall Vanderslice

Student Kendall Vanderslice recounts her experience shadowing Pastry Chef Christina Tosi at Momofuku Milk Bar’s Williamsburg kitchen.

credit: Kendall Vanderslice

When I was in elementary school, every trip to my grandmother’s house included preparing a boxed cake mix. At home, my family maintained a diet free of sugar, dairy, meat, and anything flavorful, but at Gramma’s we indulged on all of the treats typically withheld. We ate Pop-Tarts for breakfast, ice cream after dinner, and we learned to bake with boxed mixes by Betty Crocker. Pastry Chef Christina Tosi, the creative force behind Momofuku Milk Bar, shares in this nostalgic love for cereals, candies, and cakes, using their flavors as inspiration for all of her bakery’s treats. Over winter break, I visited Milk Bar’s Brooklyn kitchen to spend two days working with the pastry team, gaining a behind-the-scenes look at the operation.

I was first introduced to the desserts of Christina Tosi last Christmas when my chef gave me a copy of her cookbook, Milk. That evening, I devoured the book like a novel, entranced by Tosi’s humor and her whimsical approach to pastry. A few months later, I visited Milk Bar’s Midtown Manhattan store, excited to find that her treats lived up to my expectations. This past October, Ms. Tosi spoke at one of Harvard University’s Science and Cooking seminars. After the lecture, I introduced myself and asked if I might be able to spend a few days in January shadowing her pastry team, to which she eagerly obliged.

My first day began at 8:30 am. When I arrived, the team of sous chefs had already prepared a list of tasks for me to accomplish. I began by assisting the head baker in preparing sheet trays to bake off cookies.

“Today is a light day,” she told me. “Only 22 sheets.”

credit: Kendall Vanderslice

After showing me the pan spray, parchment, and stacks of sheet trays, she left to fetch the cookies while I prepped the trays. I neatly sprayed, papered, and stacked 22 trays just in time for her return.

“22 sheets, right?” I asked for confirmation.

Giggling, she turned her rack of pre-portioned cookie dough for me to see. “22 sheets of portioned dough,” she responded. “That’s 220 sheet trays; about 3,000 cookies.”

Amused at my novice mistake, I returned to spraying sheet trays for another hour. When all of the trays were prepped, I assisted in laying the cookies onto the sheets and organizing the racks to go into the oven.

Once that task was complete, I moved on to some side projects. I processed peanut brittle into a powder, sorted birthday cake crumbs into containers of fine crumbs, medium-sized crumbs, and too-big-for-a-single-bite crumbs. I molded piecrusts, portioned cake batter, cooked family meal, and blowtorched marshmallows. As a guest in the kitchen, I was not allowed to operate the mixers or ovens; nonetheless there was no shortage of ways for my hands to stay busy in the kitchen.

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credit: Kendall Vanderslice

The volume of production at Milk Bar was magnificently greater than any kitchen I have worked in before. Milk Bar products are sold at seven different storefronts, as well as on the dessert menus at Momofuku’s fine dining restaurants, and all are made in the kitchen in Williamsburg. Originally a warehouse, the kitchen space houses five floor-to-ceiling ovens, three 140-quart mixers, two 80-quart mixers, and one or two work tables for each of the ten pastry cooks. In addition to bakers, the pastry department consists of an extensive management team. Most cooks who stay with Milk Bar beyond one year have the opportunity to work their way into a management position, receiving training not only on the production side of the operation but on the logistical side as well.

 The days at Milk Bar were long and tiring, but the team bonded as a family and aimed to keep the work fun. Music blasted all day long, warming the atmosphere of the warehouse space. Every cook commented on his love for his job or her respect for management. By the end of two days, I felt as if they’d already adopted me as a member of the team. Exhausted, I traveled home to Boston, already awaiting my next trip to Milk Bar to sample whatever creative treats a popular cereal or candy might yet inspire.

Make sure to check out Kendall’s other endeavors and musings on the intersections of  food, faith, and culture by checking out her blog: