San Francisco Professional Food Society
2014 Featured Member: ZeBot Zebra
Tell us about yourself, ZeBot. Where are you from? How did you get to San Francisco?
I’m culinarily curious zebra from a nearby, faraway place where everyone has been, but even the most creative humans can sometimes forget to visit: it’s a place called Imagination. As for travel, my trip to San Francisco was powered by exuberant questioning, striped daydreams and my own four hooves.
Why are you a food blogger?
Well, first of all, I’m a food explorer—usually with kids (and/or playful adults) at my side. For me, exploration means examining the food world from every possible perspective—from flavors, ingredients, sources and techniques to food science, history, art, ecology, etymology and cultural traditions.
The reason I write about food (and encourage kids to do the same) is because chronicling adventures changes the way we experience them. When we know we’re going to be sharing our food stories, we notice and remember all kinds of cool things that we otherwise might not.
Being a food blogger encourages our playful minds to actively and creatively interact with real-life experiences to nourish a unique set of skills and pleasures.
The combo of creative writing and photos or videos engages all parts of the brain, empowering kids (and zebras) to experience and understand our chosen subjects in exciting new ways. Just like no two zebras have exactly the same stripes, every kid has a one-of-a-kind intellect, imagination and worldview.
When kids visit ZeBot’s Kitchen, they’ll find lots of different examples of how they can explore the food world in ways that are the most fun and meaningful for them.
Tell us about the IACP Kids Digital Kitchen.
The kitchen is the heart of your home – and home is where your heart is. Just the way you can create a home inside your heart for everyone and everything, you can create a kitchen anywhere you want it to be.
Kids love kitchen adventures. And since their imaginations and free time are captivated by an ever-growing proliferation of electronic gadgets, it makes sense that kids want to share their culinary experiences using the latest media.
With this in mind, I worked with my personal assistant Laura Martin Bacon to create the IACP Kids Digital Kitchen: a free online gathering place and food blogging program for kids ages 5-18.
At our IACP Kids Digital Kitchen, we help kids explore the wonderful world of food, chronicle their experiences in words, photos and/or video, then share them with other kids via Green Ribbon Schools (a safe, monitored website for teachers, parents and kids).
What did you wish you knew before becoming a food blogger?
Well, when I asked my friend Chuck Williams for advice on how to be a great cook, he told me to “just cook!”
I wish I had known that to be a food writer, all you have to do is write – and keep on writing!
Tell us about some of your favorite moments as a food blogger.
Here’s a kaleidoscope of my most memorable culinary moments:
Exploring the culinary gardens at Mount Vernon
Going crackers and making tempting toppings with Foodwise Kids at CUESA
Chatting with Williams-Sonoma founder, Chuck Williams, about what makes a great cook
Wokking up the first of a sizzling series of adventures with Grace Young
Discussing the culinary philosophy of Dr. Seuss with Georgeanne Brennan
Making authentic mozzarella di bufala with the Ramini water buffalo
Getting the inside scoop on truffle-hunting from Rico the Truffle Dog
Baking angel cloud cookies to celebrate a courageous little girl’s first Christmas in heaven
Solving the French kitchen mysteries of shoe pastry with Holly Herrick
Learning the secrets of freeze-dried fruit from food scientist Angela Liu
What is your biggest challenge as a food blogger and how do you overcome it?
When it comes to food prep and blogging, having four hooves with no opposable thumbs is definitely a challenge.
There’s also the humbling fact that I am a culinary beginner. But as the great Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
And as James Beard observed, “When you cook, you never stop learning – that’s the fascination of it.”
These two maxims are great guides for a zebra – or anyone who wants to make the most of cooking, writing and life.
What are your plans for 2014?
I’m working with SFPFS, IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals), The Culinary Trust, CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), the Southern Food & Beverage Institute and other great organizations to help kids discover the magic of food.
My plans include everything from traveling back in time with food historian Ken Albala to exploring the frontiers of our culinary future with modernist cuisine guru Maxime Bilet.
In a zebra’s mind, the possibilities are infinite – I hope you’ll all join me on my journey!