“Go Milk a Goat!”
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to enjoy a whirlwind of a phone call with esteemed chef Frank Pace. Pace is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy who was formerly a line cook at Aqua and then chef de cuisine at Carnelian Room, both SF fine dining establishments that are now closed. These days, Frank lives in Burlington, Vermont, where he’s recently taken on the role of in-house butcher for Catamount Hospitality and where he runs his own catering business. On top of these noteworthy credentials, Frank also happens to be a relative of my dear friend Jay, which makes him all the more impressive (and, most importantly, all the more accessible). Once Jay and his mom heard about my new cheese course (I can’t believe I haven’t used that before now), they insisted I talk to Frank, and I was delighted that he agreed!
He may look calm in that picture (perhaps he loses himself in the meat?), but on the phone he was a big, enthusiastic, and inspiring ball of energy. His advice? Get to it. That quote up there — “Go milk a goat!” — that was his. And while I may not be able to get my hands on a hoofed creature as soon as I’d like, some of his other advice might be easier to follow.
- Really, the #1 theme of the conversation was that I need to get busy and get my hands dirty. First up: Get a job! Get behind the counter somewhere, and start (literally) cutting some cheese. This one, Frank, I’m already working on! I’ve been in talks with various members of the Bay Area cheese-selling community, and I continue to try to ‘network’ my butt off (which is a good way to counteract the butt-padding all this cheese is doing). I can’t wait to start my internship at The Cheese School and, hopefully, at some point, get a job.
- Next step: Make some cheese! Now this, this is good advice. And doable! I’ll be at The Cheese School for two cheesemaking classes, but there are other curd-creating opportunities in this delightful city of mine. I recently learned of the SF Milk Maid, a well-trained and well-traveled cheese-maker who teaches private and public courses in the city. And, thanks to SF Milk Maid’s facebook page, I discovered the wonderfully intimidating blog Milk’s Leap, which chronicles the amazing at-home cheese creations of another SF local. With these resources at my disposal, how could I go wrong? (I’m sure there are many ways, all of which I promise to document)
- Another piece of advice? “Go to Europe. Go to Italy, go to France, go wherever cheese is made and learn how it’s made there, why it’s made that way, and how it tastes.” (I’m paraphrasing) Oh Frank! Oh life! If only it were this easy. But, I assure you, one day (and hopefully not one too far away), I plan to do just this. I’d be lying if I said that the thought of traveling the world in pursuit of cheesy bliss wasn’t one of the many reasons a curd nerd life called to me. Neal’s Yard Dairy? Yes, please. Fruitiere de Saint-Antoine? Yes! Fromagerie L’amuse? Yes, yes, yes! One day, you guys. One day.
Speaking of traveling: How about a trip back East? Frank may have started his career out here in San Francisco, but he’s now a serious Vermont enthusiast. While he mentioned a few connections he has here in California, he made it clear that his real hook-ups are with dairies in Vermont. Luckily, this assertion was followed by a welcome invitation to visit any time. Not only has Frank offered to show me around Vermont, but he said he’ll take me up in to Canada, too. Awesome! I’ve already corresponded with Jay (currently far away in Buenos Aires), and we’ll probably spend the next few months conspiring to actually make this happen.
So, that’s what I learned from Mr. Frank Pace. In all sincerity, I’m really grateful that he took the time to speak with me, and I’m really looking forward to keeping in touch and learning from him in the future. Thanks, Frank!