An Interview with Chef Zane Holmquist, Executive Chef of Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Interview with Chef Zane Holmquist
Q: What is Veggie U?
Holmquist: Since 2003, Veggie U, a national not-for-profit located in Milan, Ohio, offers a five-week Earth to Table science curriculum for fourth grade classrooms. The goal is to teach children the connection between what they eat and how food is grown through a hands-on seed-to-planting-to-harvest experience. The classroom lessons include studies of soil, composting, planting, nutrition and plant anatomy. The students also care for a worm farm, raise a mini “crop,” and celebrate the end of the program with a vegetable Feast Day.
Veggie U is located at the Culinary Vegetable Institute and operates with a nearby Huron family farm called The Chef’s Garden, which grows specialty vegetables and herbs for the world’s best chefs and restaurants.
Q: Why did you get involved in Veggie U?
Holmquist: As a long-standing customer of The Chef’s Garden, I became a friend and supporter of the Jones family. Farmer Bob Jones started this program in 2003 and I have participated in the fundraiser for six years.
Q: What draws you to this fundraiser?
Holmquist: I really believe in the mission of Veggie U. Kids need to understand the concept of Earth To Table and the importance of fresh vegetables. This curriculum gets information out to children. And they teach their family.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the event?
Holmquist: The fundraiser attracts talented chefs and people who are passionate about food and the culinary experience. Participating in the event energizes me. Also, I love the opportunity to combine a food concept with a charity.
Q: Does Veggie U’s curriculum impact teens?
Holmquist: The program is targeted to fourth graders who then expose their siblings and family to healthier choices. The young children become leaders to help their family be more conscientious.
Q: Do you have any children?
Holmquist: I have one son who is 16.
Q: Does your son have a sophisticated palate?
Holmquist: My son is always willing to try new things. He’s extremely adventurous. He loves sushi and will try anything. He had an aversion to spicy foods until he was 11 years old but now he loves spicy. It has been an evolution.
Q: How did you convince your son to like exotic foods?
Holmquist: I believe that kids often eat like their parents. Also, the trend today has shifted. Fast food in its early years was considered adventurous. Today, fancy food is adventurous and fun. We take it to the next step and turn Earth To Table food into an adventure.
Q: What is the most effective way to involve your teen in food choice?
Holmquist: Take the whole family to a farmer’s market. Go to a farm; stop at a fruit stand. Take trips that will trigger an interest in your kids. My son loves to cook.
Q: Does your son eat healthy?
Holmquist: He is a 6′ tall athletic 16 years old. He eats often and aggressively but he burns through calories. Sometimes, I will suggest that he take fruit instead of chips. I offer a simple reminder and he will respond.
Q: Can you share a favorite recipe for teens?
Holmquist: I try to cook favorites like pizza from scratch with lots of healthy toppings. I will prepare the dough and add whatever everyone wants on top. We have a great time together as a family.
Q: What language do you look for on packaging?
Holmquist: I used to rely on organic but the term no longer guarantees anything. Still, the food probably has less exposure to pesticides. I stay away from Trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and I look at the first five ingredients. If I can’t pronounce the first few ingredients, then I don’t buy it. I prefer to buy simple foods with fewer ingredients.
I like to shop local – farmers markets and neighborhood stands. The fruit and vegetables have better flavor and I am supporting the community.
Q: What foods do you like to eat?
Holmquist: I avoid fried food. I think everything tastes better when it is grilled: grilled fish, lamb, butternut squash, corn and asparagus.
Q: What took you down the chef path?
Holmquist: My mother was a great cook, she still is. She served great meals. I was a picky eater but my mom always had great and interesting food with heart and flavor. I did not always like it, but I enjoyed watching her prepare it. After watching her, I began cooking and started working where she was working through high school. After high school, I just continued cooking. Stumbled across a chef who encouraged me to look at cooking as a career, not just a way to make money. Lucky for me, I found something I am good that I love and that pays well.
Q: What was your biggest surprise as a chef?
Holmquist: Working as a chef is arduous and intense. I work 70-90 hours every week. The last time I was home for Thanksgiving was 1982.
The 2011 Food & Wine Celebration is an annual benefit featuring gourmet cuisine prepared by chefs from all over the country, wines from top vineyards, cooking demos, and an exclusive auction. Held on Saturday, July 16, 2011, on the grounds of The Culinary Vegetable Institute, 12304 Ohio Route 13 in Milan, all proceeds will go to Veggie U, a not-for-profit organization. For more information, call (419) 499-7500.