The Organic Garden Chef
 
 

Shannon o'dell

Private Chef

garden to table

 
 
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Background

My love for food started when I was a young girl living on a farm in the Midwest. We lived in a very small town in Gurnee, IL. Everything we needed was grown. We canned what we didn't use right away and exchanged the rest with neighbors in return for something that we didn’t grow that year. I took great joy and pride harvesting the vegetables from my mother’s beautifully curated garden that she tended to. Gently pulling carrots and radishes, plucking the peas off the vines, shucking the corn and the potatoes. I loved digging for potatoes. It was by far my favorite vegetable to harvest from the garden. It taught me patience, as potatoes grow so slowly. And, it was like waiting and watching for water to boil.

My father loved to fish and we spent most weekends and any free time on Lake Michigan, reeling in so much beautiful salmon. I still remember the smell of my Dad smoking the beautifully and meticulously filleted pieces on his seasoned smoker. With such skill and care, my dad would fillet all of the fish and place them onto some wood. The head and innards of the salmon were gifted to my Mom to bury in her garden compost. It was important for us to honor the life of those salmon by using every single part.

My grandma, Lucille, was Polish and she loved to cook. Every day, I would anxiously await the moment my grandma called for me to come in from playing outside and sit down on her lap on her favorite chair. Every day, my grandma & I watched our very favorite show, Julia Childs on KQED.

In 1986, we moved from our small little town of Gurnee and came to California. I anxiously waited for the day we could have a garden to start harvesting again. Cooking with what the garden provided was a way for us all to come together, work and BE with each other. We had supper every night at the dinner table together. Grace was never started until every one of us were sitting at the table.

California was a fast paced, loud and wild concrete jungle. Our garden was the one thing that I could count on being the same. I praised God for that. It kept me grounded and served as a gentle reminder that no matter where we went, we would always have the garden to bring us together.

Today, I grow food for my family, friends and for my clients. I have a greenhouse to grow food throughout the year, and raised beds to utilize our wonderful California weather for most of the growing season. My recent projects have been helping local schools and families install gardens. Growing a garden, and growing up in a garden, is so special to me. It brings me such joy to share the gift that God has given me to people who desire to eat healthier as well as educate their children about the importance of knowing what is in the food we eat. The garden is a wonderful place for people to get together to learn, enjoy, educate, and grow! 

 

Experience

I have been in the culinary industry for over 25 years and was formally trained through the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and the Culinary Institute of America in New York. I have been doing private chef work and catering for the past 15 years. 

I am a strong promoter of sustainable agriculture and the use of the freshest organic ingredients available. What I do not grow at home in my own garden, I purchase from local farmers within a 25 mile radius. My menus are based on what is available seasonally. I procure free-range chicken, organic beef and locally raised pork and game. Everything is made from scratch, from soup stocks, sauces, charcutterie, cheeses to different varieties of pastas, breads and pastries.