About Ingredient Driven

Ingredients are the fundamental building block of the culinary world.  Everyone, from the home cook to the Michelin starred chef, begins their process in the kitchen with ingredients and yet we are often less conscious of the constituent parts than of the entire dish or meal. Still, it is the ingredients that define our eating experiences through their quality, variety and application.

The best chefs will admit that, while they have worked hard over many years to perfect the craft of their cooking, it is the quality of the ingredients they work with that elevates their cuisine above that of their peers.  While not everyone has access to the very best ingredients all the time, by better understanding the food we work with we are able to make selections that will enhance enjoyment of our food.  And so this site is dedicated to looking at ingredients – their origins, history, geography and evolution – as a way to better understand the culinary world, appreciate those who grow, raise or manufacture our food and to become better cooks.  Welcome.

Bertram Whitman

Food has always played a central role in my life.  My natural affinity for culinary adventure was heightened by a childhood spent across the street from my family’s restaurant and later grew through a love for the pleasures of the table that I shared with my parents and sister.

Despite starting out on a career in the dining room at an early age, it wasn’t until college that my interest in food truly blossomed.  It was in the course of studying issues pertaining to natural resources at Georgetown University that I began to see how I might make a career for myself working directly with food.  Initially I had thought to enter food policy and so had a close brush with law school.  But instead, I decided that to be truly happy I ought to work with food systems directly so I enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America.   The CIA opened my eyes to the incredible culinary diversity that the world has to offer.  During my time there I had the opportunity to learn directly from organic farmers and work in restaurants that were truly ingredient driven, changing their menu daily based on the best available products.

Following culinary school I relocated to the Napa Valley and spent time working for the Hillstone Restaurant as well as launching a culinary program at an award-winning winery.  As a culinary-minded resident of the Napa Valley I was perpetually awed and intrigued by the work of Chef Thomas Keller and always held in the back of my mind the notion that there was so much I could potentially learn from the chef and his group of restaurants.

So it was my tremendous privilege to eventually go to work for Chef Keller, first as Culinary Assistant at The French Laundry and later as part of the communications team for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.  At The French Laundry I saw first hand the fundamental role that the best ingredients play in creating incredible, memorable and innovative cuisine.  Every aspect of the restaurant was intentional, every ingredient in every dish carefully selected to contribute its utmost to the execution of an exceptional whole.

I have since left the restaurant group but so many aspects of my time there – a vision for hospitality taken to its highest expression, a drive for excellence and, perhaps most importantly, an appreciation for the people and stories behind individual ingredients – have stayed with me.

Today I continue to work with food, supporting individual producers and associations of producers as part of the team at the integrated marketing firm Schiedermayer & Associates, and to write about food in a variety of publications.  However this site is the realization of personal goal and the embodiment of a lifelong fascination with food, ingredients and all the ways they impact and enrich our lives.

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