About Eco-Chef Aaron French

   
 

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Eco-Chef Aaron French has been the chef of The Sunny Side Café in Albany, CA since its opening in January 2004, and is the author of The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook (2011, Voyageur Press).

In 2008 & 2009 he wrote the EcoChef column for ten Bay Area News Group newspapers exploring the relationships between ecology and food. He has been a writer and editor for CivilEats.com and a contributing editor for Fungi Magazine.

He is a contributing author to "The New Green Grocer Cookbook"

The Sunny Side Café has received a number of accolades, including "Best Place to Experience Slow Food Nation" by San Francisco Magazine, and "Best Breakfast" in 2006, 2007 and 2010 by the East Bay Express readers. Aaron has also won "Best New Restaurant" in 2007 for Luna Dinner House.

Education

U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business, focusing on sustainable business, MBA Candidate.

Center for Tropical Research, San Francisco State University, Masters in Ecology and Systematic Biology, 2004

University of California, San Diego, Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1993.

Before he became a professional chef he was a professional scientist. For his Masters in Ecology, Aaron spent two years living with the Baka pygmies in Cameroon, studying birds and monkeys.

He spent years traveling the globe as a tropical ecologist, working with rare and endangered species and studying how birds and monkeys help to re-grow the rainforests through a process of seed dispersal. Photography from his research can be found at www.nature-pictures.com.

Aaron learned about quality, local food as a child. He spent part of his childhood on a small farm in Sacramento, Ca, where they grew all their own vegetables and fruit and ate the eggs from their free ranging chickens. Eating local meant walking out the back door and harvesting dinner.

He started cooking professionally during his time at U.C. San Diego, and has been combining cooking with biology ever since.

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Food and Science

Aaron uses his science background as a chef in several ways. Most practically, he has translated some of the equipment used in a science lab into the restaurant. For example, when commercial culinary hotplates were too big and not accurate enough for holding his sauces, he adopted digital laboratory hotplates instead.

Analytically, the same skills and conceptual tools are used in the kitchen and in research. When he had developed over 30, and eventually over 50, different pancake recipes, he analyzed the correlations between the different recipes and came up with the Pancake Pyramid. A revolutionary recipe tool, the Pancake Pyramid used the concepts of Multivariate Analysis to create a sectional array of pancake types – Soft and Fluffy, Firm and Dense, Smooth and Silky. The Pancake Pyramid is a useful teaching tool, because it simply explains the different axis of pancake recipe formation.

Finally, Aaron brings his direct experience and knowledge as a research ecologist into his food. He has studied the models estimating fish abundance used to calculate commercial fishing harvests. He has experienced the effects of feral agricultural animals on fragile native landscapes like Hawaii and areas of Latin America. He has seen the human induced affects on animals and plants alike throughout the globe, and believes that through informed eating choices many of these issues can be resolved.

Additionally, working with and living among people from tropical agricultural producing villages in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, has deepened his understanding of the global food cycle. These experiences, combined with his youth on a small farm in Sacramento, further inform his recipes and menus.

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© 2006 - 2012 Aaron French. All rights reserved.   aaron@eco-chef.com