10 October 2013

Cooking and Collaborating

Ellen Jackson will be at the PSU Market on Saturday, October 12, for Cookbook Fest with her latest book, The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook.  Her book features a recipe by Piper Davis of Grand Central Baking, who will take the Chef Stage at 10am to demo an Oregon Filbert and Honey Tart.

Ellen_Jackson_HeadshotBy Ellen Jackson, author of The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook

If there’s a happier mashup of my skills than cookbook author, I don’t know what it is.

I’ve been a word geek for as long as I can remember, genetically predisposed to the title as the daughter of a newspaper journalist turned book publisher.  I’ve been a food geek even longer, searching out delicious morsels from the get go.  (I’m the offspring of a couple of good cooks who love nothing more than to feed others.) And I’m a Virgo, if you place any stock in that sort of thing.  In my case, it means I’m a stickler for rules and order, grammatical precision and measuring ingredients with a scale instead of cups and spoons.  Put all those things together and my professional path makes sense.  Here are the broad strokes: From liberal arts English major to assistant editor for commercial NYC publisher. From to culinary school to pastry chef.  From food writer and stylist to cookbook author.

The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook Cover-1When I signed on as writer for The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook, I knew it would be a perfect fit for my experience as a cook and writer, and my passion for advocating for a more sustainable food system. I’ve been involved with Chefs Collaborative on and off for around 15 years.  Greg Higgins, who sat on the national board and led the Portland chapter, introduced me to the organization when I was his pastry chef. At the time, monthly meetings took place in the bar at Higgins on Sunday mornings, when I was working. I would try to arrange my day so that everything was out of the oven and I could sit in on the meetings.

When I left restaurant kitchens to focus on writing, I quickly realized that I am drawn to food issues and the broader implications of what and how we feed ourselves. At that point, I reengaged with Chefs Collaborative, this time from a slightly different perspective. To view food through this lens feels most meaningful to me, and gives me a sense that I might be able to make a difference in the social, environmental and economic challenges facing our food system by educating others about them.  It’s why sit on the Portland Farmers Market board and am active in Portland’s Slow Food chapter, too.

Though their end products nourish body and soul, cooking and writing can be similarly solitary occupations, which is why we cookbook authors welcome the chance to step away from the stove and the computer, to meet our public, spread our gospel and share food from our kitchens.  The inaugural Cookbook Fest at the Portland Farmers Market this Saturday, October 12, is your chance to meet local chefs and authors, sample regional treats like Carrot Top Pesto, New England Simmered Supper (with a Pacific Northwest twist), and Oregon Filbert and Honey Tart, and add to your library of cookbooks.

Don’t miss this mashup of local, seasonal food and beautiful books, and the chance to rub elbows with some of Portland’s vibrant food community.  I hope to see you there!

Ellen Jackson graduated from New England Culinary Institute and spent 12 years as a pastry chef in some of the best kitchens in Portland, OR. After her stint in restaurants, Ellen combined her love of food and words to create a new career for herself. She writes about and styles food for books, magazines, websites and television, develops and tests recipes and consults for local, sustainably-minded restaurant and food service clients.  In addition to writing The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook, she is the coauthor of The Grand Central Baking Book and developed recipes for The Paley’s Place Cookbook and Weber’s Way to Grill.  Ellen is a longtime Slow Food steering committee member and a Portland Farmers Market board member.