By Chef Georgia Ann Murphy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy interest in food started from an early age – spending time with my Italian grandmother in her garden in the Gold Country of California where our family would gather. We feasted on seasonal and locally grown delicacies from her abundant garden – fragrant tomatoes, freshly shelled peas, and sweet pumpkins which would become fillings under her creative hands. Nonni never seemed to sleep; she was always gathering and organizing her community around food. Our family would share meals of rustic polenta, (leftovers fried for the morning meal which we would eat in her intimate kitchen), topped with sweet pepper and fresh basil ragu and tenderly plump ravioli, each lovingly handmade filled with chard and spinach from her garden.

I have my Mom to thank for my love of animals and nature – she was an environmentalist long before I ever knew the word. She welcomed animals of all kinds into her family’s lives – we had everything from rats, to abandoned cats, mutts of all shapes and sizes. Animals were always present during mealtimes, not to be fed at the table, (although we did), but to be thought of as part of the family experience.

After attending the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London, I remained in Europe for ten years – working alongside recognized Chefs at prestigious and Michelin starred hotels and restaurants. I was always proud of my accomplishments, but felt disconnected with my environment. Professional Chefs and cooks that I worked with seemed too overly concerned about the exact diameter of a chicken gallentine, or plating techniques, or how to make a sauce. Food was, and continues to remain, for me, an instinct. I found the professional cooking world to be too precise, too impersonal towards the products created.

When I moved back from Europe, I put myself back through school, eventually earning an M.A. Ed. My thesis and interests surrounded student learning, food marketing and impacts of food education on society.

Most recently, I ran the restaurant at Treasure Island Job Corps, where I was the Fine Dining Chef. Freshly prepared vegetables and grains were rarely on the cafeteria menu. Topics important to me, including animal welfare and the environment and their relationship to our culinary trade, were rarely discussed. It was difficult for me to leave my teaching position at the island. However, I did what was right for me and I know that my future career in Food Education has come full circle.

I’m a vegetarian, vegan whenever possible. I feel better knowing that by shopping locally and eating organically, whenever possible, I am leaving less of a negative impact on our planet and helping our community. My hope is that by offering healthy cooking classes for animals and their people at places like the Marin Humane Society, I can help educate others about how the food choices we make impact our community and society as a whole.