By Leigh McCarren, Ownership & Outreach Specialist
What is your culinary background?
My parents worked at a restaurant when I was young, and I often spent Sunday mornings watching in the kitchen and playing with leftover bread dough. I worked in that same restaurant through college and on my family’s organic farm, A to Z Produce and Bakery. I’m lucky to have spent my life surrounded by fresh, local, and organic food and to have learned the value of growing, cooking, and eating local food from a very young age. I love that working in this field allows me to express my creativity as well as be involved in sustainability, seasonal eating, supporting small farmers, social justice and food equity.
How did growing up at A to Z Produce and Bakery inspire your career in local food?
Growing up on a small farm and being involved in a food business was a driving force in the way I think about food. At the farm, I ate and worked with foods that had been harvested mere hours before. I was taught the importance of organic, sustainable agriculture and saw firsthand the effect that CSAs can have on a community. I have a trove of food memories from mornings spent harvesting vegetables to plentiful midday meals, from foraging for morels and ramps in the spring to that first slice of hot pizza at the end of a busy night. I feel a closeness to food, the way you might feel about a dear friend, that comes from spending so many years intimately involved in its creation from the seed up.
At our co-op, we source the best local and in-season ingredients and feature them in our housemade foods. How does that play into your recipe- development process?
Seasonality plays heavily into my recipe-development process. I’m a vegetable enthusiast. Through our recipes, we can showcase vegetables that people don’t think they like or know what to do with, and by using a unique spice, herb or cooking method, we open a whole new world of flavors.
Where do you get your inspiration for developing recipes?
I start by looking at what is missing from our menu and what produce is in season. I consider food trends, new ideas and fresh twists on familiar dishes. I find inspiration in cookbooks, food websites and conversations with our cooks. I also consider large-scale production. It’s easy to come up with amazing recipes when you’re cooking for three or four, but its a lot more complicated when you’re making 100 pounds at a time. I’m fascinated by the process of making recipes work on a large scale.
Visit Franny’s parents at A to Z Produce and Bakery Farm in Stockholm, Wis. Every Tuesday night during the summer months, they serve hot pizza made of farm- fresh ingredients and baked in their wood-fired pizza oven.