Mike Creech grew up in a rural area of Southwest Michigan. Although he didn’t live on a farm, he learned early on about planting and harvesting crops from a large family garden. He also spent summers picking fruits and vegetables to eat fresh and learned about preserving food for the winter months. He first began to cook in his parents’ kitchen, but worked in a restaurant kitchen while putting himself through college.
The biggest impact on Mike’s culinary interest was his time studying abroad in Angers, France. He was introduced to a variety of foods and was reminded of important lessons regarding the availability of fresh ingredients in season. He also developed a taste for cured meats that were much more exotic than the bacon and jerky he knew from his youth.
These interests continued to develop during a period when Mike lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. The exposure to the culinary melting pot that blended Caribbean, Latin American and Acadian cuisines with French and Spanish ones provided additional opportunities to learn about more flavors and traditions than he had previously known.
It was during his time in Louisiana that Mike developed a love of barbecue. Later, he bought a smoker (a Big Green Egg) and for over a decade has been experimenting with spice rubs, sauces and types of wood to pair with different types of meat. More recently, he has branched out to start curing meats and making fresh sausage. While still a home cook, Mike is an avid reader who embraces the challenge of learning new ingredients, dishes and techniques to satisfy his curious palate.
A librarian and historian by training, Mike currently works in the field of Information Architecture and web development. He likes to travel and eat and writes about these experiences at The Wandering Glutton (http://wanderingglutton.wordpress.com).
Robert Furmanczyk was born in Australia. He resides in Central Victoria with his wife and four children. Robert and his family farm heritage breed pigs from farrow to finish. These include Hampshires, Wessex Saddlebacks and Berkshires. They run a closed, outdoor herd and their farming operation is officially Certified Organic by NASAA. They also farm some cattle and sheep.
Robert has completed a Diploma in Agriculture and a Diploma in Pork Production. Over the years, he has regularly participated in pig training workshops covering housing, health & disease, welfare, nutrition, identification and treatment of compromised pigs and post mortem examination. These workshops were conducted through the government’s Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI), under the instruction of Dr Tony Fahy.
In 2005, Robert made the decision to leave the “Big Smoke” and enter the world of farming. Prior to following his passion to farm, Robert worked in the automotive, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. His qualifications include an Associate Diploma in Engineering – Mechanical/Manufacturing, Certificate IV in Process Plant Technology and Certificate IV in Small Business Management
Robert has a deep passion for food that was influenced by his European grandparents from an early age. One of his simple pleasures is sharing great food with good people. For Robert, eating home grown produce and farming with his family is as good as it gets!
John Gower lives and works at Quiet Waters Farm, in North Devon, UK. The farm is in the same parish in which he grew up on his family’s small dairy and horticultural holding. He is a Farmer, grower, Curer and maker of foods. He has worked on a practical and consultancy level in environmentally sensitive building design and construction, rural livelihood systems for new entrants to agriculture as well as strategic Policy and Planning, working for private clients, community projects and Governments. John and his young family grew Quiet Waters Farm from seed, starting with a small area of semi regenerated scrub land, to not only provide a new home and livelihood but also to research ways of starting and sustaining a new land based business purely out of its own generated revenues whilst maximising on farm processing and added value opportunities. He specialises is fresh sausages, producing what is probably the widest range in the UK, and dry cured meats and salumi based on the farms own stock and their natural feed regime. He also cooks and caters events using the farms produce ensuring an involvement in every step of the field to table progression. John is also active in teaching, courses and forums devoted to helping promote quality cured meats within the UK and further afield.
Nicholas E. Heckett is the founder of Woodlands Pork – committed to using Appalachian forest terroir to produce the finest hams and charcuterie in America. He is also a founding partner of The Curehouse of Louisville KY. The Curehouse is a producer of fine quality processed meats sourced from specialty bred and fed animals to create the highest quality products. The Curehouse, in concert with our sister companies, Woodlands Pork and Black Oak Holler Farm, is committed to producing the finest meat, and in particular, dry-cured ham, in America, and we hope, the world.
Nick Heckett, Jay Denham & Chuck Talbott of Woodlands Pork have a simple mission: to create an American Charcuterie that will rival the finest in the world from Spain, Italy, and France. The seed of this “American revolution” is germinating at Chuck Talbott’s Black Oak Holler Farm in Mason County, West Virginia. By reviving traditional agricultural practices and employing modern climate controlled curing, Woodlands Pork is taking the traditional dry cured American Ham into the 21st century.
The forested mountainsides and lush bottomlands of the western Appalachian range in Virginia offer the optimal geographic and climatic conditions for mast finishing pork (that is the practice of allowing hogs to roam freely through the woods, fattening on nuts and other foods: the tree mast). This practice is essential to developing a superior ham for dry curing and Chuck’s area of expertise that is unrivaled here and rare abroad.
Raised in Ireland, Nicholas lives in Northern Virginia.
Kate Hill, a published author and professional cook of 30 years, founded Camont as a cooking school and culinary retreat in 1991 after moving to France from the US. Kate is willingly mentor, coach and teacher. Her programs have grown from her relationships with Gascony’s thriving food community – particularly its butchers and charcutiers. This teaching has placed Kate at the forefront of the global nose-to-tail butchery movement. Hill offers an intensive hands-on training program 1-4 weeks as well as international workshops with French farmer/butcher Dominique Chapolard. As former head of Butchery & Charcuterie at the British School of Artisan Food she designed a field to table, 10-month diploma course; Kate founded the International Grrls Meat Camp- a 500 strong group of women farmers, butchers, chefs and teachers. Kate also teaches and consults with professionals like Michael Ruhlman for Conde Nast Traveler, and the BBC’s French Odyssey series with chef Rick Stein, which was filmed at Camont. Her work has been featured in Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Dish, Appellation and Maison Sud Ouest magazines, as well as the New York Times, the LA Times, London Times and the Boston Globe. Kate welcomes students to Camont throughout the year.
Laurence Mate’s paternal grandparents ran a butcher shop and green grocer’s out of their 17th-century stone house, next to the pub, in the little village of South Cerney, located in the Cotswolds. Although his father emigrated to the US to pursue an academic career in low-temperature physics, the family came back to England every summer to work in the market garden and orchards. Laurence admits he probably did as much grumbling as working, and he resolutely refused to eat tomatoes for several years (not as bizarre as his brother’s rejection of strawberries), but he learned early on where an egg came from, how it should look, and what it should taste like.
After abandoning a career teaching English literature (an easy choice, since there were no jobs), Laurence took up a Sawzall, working for a remodeling contractor, and then worked at several cabinet shops in Chicago before moving downstate to Champaign, where he has his own custom cabinet and furniture business in the garadio behind his house.
Once in his own house, his heritage came back with a vengeance, and he started digging up every bit of Chemlawn to replace it with garden beds, bringing home buckets of manure to compost, and seeking out local farmers to buy all the meat his family ate. A taste of true, slow-and-low barbecued ribs at Abe’s Barbecue in Clarksdale, Mississippi, started him on his meat-making career, and it has long since spiraled out of control from a hobby to an obsession, reading everything he can get his hands on, questioning, experimenting, learning, un-learning, and re-learning. Resisting all attempts to kill his love of cooking by making it his day job, he continues to work out of a 9 X 12 “meat lair” in his basement. You can follow what he’s cooking up on facebook at This Little Piggy Meats & More.
John Patterson started the Salt Cured Pig in an attempt to bring together people to teach himself how to cure meats like what he remembered in Europe. What he didn’t know was how deep the rabbit hole went. The more he learned he realized he didn’t know anything. Coming from an information technology background helped him see a niche. As he learned and brought in other mentors, he could categorize that information into something others could learn from. He did not want cured meats to be just another fad on the United States culinary map. As someone who grew up with Attention Deficit Disorder he knew that not every one learns the same way…so the goal was to create a community that taught in as many methods as possible. Live, video, text, conversations…
He also chose as a focus for the group that ingredients do matter, especially when one of those ingredients started as a living beast. It deserves our respect, it deserves a sacrifice with dignity and a life not filled with stress and confinement. Too be naturally pasture raised, hopefully in the woods and free to roam. A pig that has just one bad day…
John also runs the Annual BizarreBQ at different sustainable farms, bringing consumers and chefs directly to farmers to break the Mega-Grocery Store chain and create last relationships while having a very interesting Potluck.
Bob Perry is the Special Projects Manager for the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Working Group in the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky and a lab instructor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. In addition to teaching his task is to promote the development of new food enterprises, markets and products by connecting university expertise with Kentucky entrepreneurs, farmers and chefs.
He has been a professional chef for over twenty-five years in such operations as private yachts, steamboats, high-speed ferries, trains and restaurants that don’t move including his own French Provencal Bistro “The Farmers Hall”. In 2004 while Director of Foodservice for the KY State Park system’s twenty one restaurants he initiated the first government farm direct produce purchasing program in the nation and in 2005 fostered a regulatory change that allowed the restaurants to also farm direct purchase fresh meat and dairy. At UK since 2006, he designed the “KY Hamburger Alliance” to bring producers together to make hamburger patties and from that developed UK’s whole carcass program for dining services and other extensive Farm to College efforts. His current research is creating data sheets for all eight breeds of heritage American hogs to be used by farmers and chefs. If you are ever on UK’s campus the First Friday of the month you can find him preparing a hyper local breakfast for the sustainable ag community in the Good Barn.
Bob lives in a 120 year old home on an historic farm in Garrard County, KY with his wife and two sons.
Dr. Michele Pfannenstiel is the founder and CEO of Dirigo Food Safety. Dr. P earned her BA in Economics and Geology from Wellesley College, after which she served in the Peace Corps in Irbid, Jordan. In her second year of study at the University Of Georgia College Of Veterinary Medicine, the future Dr. P was chosen for the prestigious Health Professions Scholarship Program through the US Army. Upon receiving her DVM, Dr. P commissioned into the US Army Veterinary Corps, where she learned the food safety skills she now brings to the local food and meats industry across the country. After fulfilling her active duty commitment, Dr. P settled with her family in Southern Maine, where they raise chickens and the occasional ruminant, experiment in the kitchen, and explore the woods around their home.
Dr. P is a certified HACCP auditor through ASQ. She serves as the President of the Maine chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and as the Director of Food Safety for the national Farmer Veteran Coalition. A sought after speaker, Dr. P has taught food safety workshops at the Stone Barns Center, Pigstock, the Wallace Center Food Hub Conference, the New England Meat Conference, and the Empowering Women Veterans in Business and Agriculture Conference.
Dr. Jan Ziegler is a protein biochemist by education, having worked and published on the molecular mechanisms of mad cow disease and related spongiform encephalopathies in mammals and humans. He currently works as a patent engineer.
Being born in Northern Bavaria, he spent a significant amount of his childhood days in his godfather’s rural butcher shop and has been interested in traditional Bavarian charcuterie in particular and traditional preservation techniques in general ever since.
After moving out of the inner city and into the countryside, he finally found time and space to pursue his own curing, smoking, drying and pickling projects, always on the lookout for one more traditional recipe to try out. Together with his girlfriend, he keeps chicken, rabbits and quails, not yet having progressed to pigs. Not yet.