Wash­ing­ton Col­lege’s Eastern Shore Food Lab opens

Record Observer - - SCHOOL -

CH­ESTER­TOWN — Bring­ing tra­di­tional nose-to­tail cook­ing tech­niques from Cal­abria, Italy, to lo­cal res­i­dents and Wash­ing­ton Col­lege stu­dents, Ital­ian Culi­nary In­sti­tute Mas­ter Chef John Nocita opened the col­lege’s Eastern Shore Food Lab Nov. 20 with two pre­sen­ta­tions fo­cused on pre­par­ing an­ces­tral meals while leav­ing noth­ing to waste.

“When we talk about no waste, it’s be­cause tra­di­tional peo­ple could not af­ford to waste,” Nocita told some 50 peo­ple at the hours-long morn­ing pre­sen­ta­tion. He would fol­low it up with a sec­ond pre­sen­ta­tion to a packed house later in the af­ter­noon, a news re­lease states.

“Liv­ing in a war-rav­aged coun­try (post World War II), not know­ing if you’re go­ing to find food, it’s one rea­son we don’t waste any­thing. And it’s not just a mat­ter of be­ing con­scious of not throw­ing things away; it’s our cre­ativ­ity. We love to cook!” Nocita said in the re­lease.

Nocita was the first chef to visit the brand­new Eastern Shore Food Lab — an in­no­va­tive, one-of-a-kind teach­ing, learn­ing and pro­duc­tion space — led by Bill Schindler, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of an­thro­pol­ogy and a world ex­pert on prim­i­tive tech­nolo­gies and an­cient food­ways.

Draw­ing in­ter­na­tional chefs and food in­no­va­tors to re­think the food sys­tems by us­ing an­ces­tral food knowl­edge and tech­nolo­gies, the ESFL aims to cre­ate food for to­day’s palate that is more nu­tri­tious, mean­ing­ful and sus­tain­able, the re­lease states.

Schindler calls this “learn­ing to eat like hu­mans again,” the re­lease states.

Schindler met Nocita two years ago when he trav­eled to Italy to take one of Nocita’s classes in char­cu­terie. The two worked to­gether again last year as Schindler was in Europe gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion for the ESFL as part of his Food Evo­lu­tions project.

As soon as he met Nocita, Schindler said, “I knew right away I had found a men­tor … this was the in­for­ma­tion, the tech­niques, and the ap­proach I wanted to bring back here.”

“John is al­ways look­ing for un­der­stand­ing into tra­di­tional food­ways,” Schindler said. “Our ap­proach is the same, even though our back­grounds are very dif­fer­ent.” He said that as soon as Nocita heard that the lab was ready to open, he of­fered to be its first guest chef.

“This is a beau­ti­ful town,” Nocita told the au­di­ence. “For us in Italy, it re­ally per­son­i­fies what we think about Amer­ica. It seems a lit­tle more in touch with the earth and na­ture than some of the big cities.”

The pair and mem­bers of the ESFL team — which in­cluded As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Shane Brill, stu­dent in­tern Melia Greene, ad­min­is­tra­tive co­or­di­na­tor Eden Kloet­zli, stu­dents from Schindler’s Food, Peo­ple, and the Planet class, and Schindler’s son Billy and wife Christina — had butchered a pig from Kent County’s Lan­gen­felder Farm and cre­ated a se­ries of dishes from ev­ery part.

Nocita started with “bol­lito,” boiled meat served over stale fo­cac­cia with a sauce made of pars­ley, olive oil, lemon and salt.

“It’s the worst cuts of the meat,” Nocita ex­plained. “It’s peas­ant food. Peo­ple did not have a lot of money, and the best cuts of meat went to wealthy peo­ple.” Stu­dents served the fla­vor­ful, ten­der dish in small bowls to the vis­i­tors as Nocita an­swered ques­tions. He fol­lowed with a va­ri­ety of other dishes, in­clud­ing seared ten­der­loin and a dish made with boiled nerves, fat, and parts of the head.

Nocita said the trendy buzz­words around food — lo­cal, sus­tain­able, fresh, in-sea­son, for ex­am­ple — are not trends in Italy.

“It’s what we live ev­ery day. In Italy, we are blessed with ter­ri­ble distri­bu­tion … we’re able to re­tain our re­gional iden­tity,” some­thing he said it seems much of the U.S. has lost as food has be­come more cul­tur­ally ho­mog­e­nized, the re­lease states. “When we iden­tify with our cui­sine, we iden­tify with our­selves.”

Be­tween cour­ses, Schindler an­swered ques­tions about the food lab, which he has been con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing for about eight years. The fun­da­men­tal goal, he said, is to re­con­nect peo­ple to their food.

Al­though some of the lab’s work will be fo­cused on more cut­ting-edge foods like in­sects as sus­tain­able sources of pro­tein, he ini­tially wants to con­nect peo­ple to what they are al­ready eat­ing ever y day, the re­lease states.

“You should know what you are eat­ing, but the re­al­ity is, how many of us have eaten a hot dog? How many of us have ac­tu­ally made a hot dog? From scratch? From choos­ing the pig?” Schindler said in the re­lease.

While ul­ti­mately work­ing for global food sys­tem change, the ESFL will be grounded in the lo­cal, pro­pelled by the no­tion that en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural sus­tain­abil­ity should be at the fore­front in our ap­proach to food, the re­lease states.

“By re­search­ing the re­sources unique to the re­gion based on weather, cli­mate, soil chem­istry and mi­cro­bial bi­ol­ogy, and fus­ing an­cient and his­toric food­ways with mod­ern tech­nolo­gies and meth­ods, fac­ulty, stu­dents, com­mu­nity mem­bers and col­lab­o­ra­tive re­searchers will re-en­vi­sion our food sys­tem, from how we de­fine food to how we grow it and pre­pare it,” the re­lease states.

Mar­guerite Miller, who had taken a class with Nocita in Italy, drove from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to at­tend the morn­ing event. Nocita had told her about Schindler, know­ing D.C. wasn’t far from Ch­ester­town.

“I went to Italy to learn to make ar­ti­san cheese,” she said. “He said, ‘You gotta meet Bill,’ so here I am.’’

Ital­ian Culi­nary In­sti­tute Mas­ter Chef John Nocita opens Wash­ing­ton Col­lege’s new Eastern Shore Food Lab Nov. 20 with two pre­sen­ta­tions on mak­ing the most out of in­gre­di­ents while leav­ing noth­ing to waste.


John Nocita’s first class at the Eastern Shore Food Lab learned how to make “bol­lito” or boiled meat served over stale fo­cac­cia with a sauce made of pars­ley, olive oil, lemon and salt.

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