Chef’s Port Townsend classes to cook up locally grown cuisine

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Arran Stark used to work with beluga caviar. He was a fancy chef in fancy restaurants in Atlanta, Boston and Portland, Ore.

But “I was put on this Earth,” Stark says, “to educate people about cooking. . . . All I need is a workshop.”

After facing several of life’s major challenges, Stark has found the shop, and he plans to use it starting this Wednesday.

At the Cultivated Palette kitchen,1433 Sims Way, Stark will start off a series of classes by teaching cooks how to, as he puts it, “maintain an edge.”

“Knife Basics” is the first in a 10-week series of community cooking tutorials in the kitchen; others include “Perfect New England Clam Chowder” on Feb. 13, “The Wonderful World of Potato” on Feb. 20, “Stocks and Sauces” on March 6 and “The Egg” on March 20.

Classes start at 6 p.m. and run about two hours with plentiful time for questions, Stark promised.

The fee is $30 per class, covering costs in what Stark said is a not-for-profit project.

“I’m going to teach what I learned as an 18-year-old apprentice,” and have developed in the 22 years since: “the most effective way to butcher a bell pepper . . . and classic cuts, like the french fry,” Stark said.

On potato night, he’ll explore “a lot of classic techniques, a lot of really cool things to do,” to arrive at fluffy mashed potatoes, for example.

Stark also will teach students to “make some extra,” and then how transform those leftovers into something sublime such as, say, a fish croquette.

Stark, the executive chef at Jefferson Healthcare hospital, hopes to one day have the hospital’s doctors prescribe cooking classes for their patients, as a preventative and as a healing agent.

Stark also likes to bring young people in to, as he says, “play with food.”

So beginning next month he’ll offer Saturday morning cooking classes for children ages 7 to 10.

“Youth vs. Vegetable” is first on Feb. 9; then comes “How to Cook Your Parents’ Breakfast” on Feb. 23. The fee for each 9 a.m.-to-noon class will be $45.

Stark, who has two young children, believes in the “put an apron on them” method of family cuisine.

A few years ago, one of Stark’s numerous food-oriented activities in the community was teaching cooking in the home economics classes at Port Townsend High School.

“It’s a blast,” he said.

But that was before Stark went to work at Jefferson Healthcare, and before other elements of his life changed.

Two years ago his wife, Micaela Colley, found she had breast cancer; she was six months pregnant when she received her diagnosis.

Also around that time, Stark began making over the food service department at Jefferson Healthcare.

Today, Colley, who is director of the Organic Seed Alliance in Port Townsend, is recovered from the cancer and the chemotherapy.

And, said Stark, “we have a beautiful son,” a little brother to their daughter Crenna.

Owyn is almost 2 now.

Stark looks forward to many more cooking classes — for youth and for grown-ups — at the Cultivated Palette.

Only one in the adults’ series, the Feb. 14 class and dinner for couples, is sold out while “the rest are wide open,” Stark said.

As with his cooking at Jefferson Healthcare and his demonstrations at the Port Townsend Farmers Market, Stark loves the local: vegetables from Nash’s Organic Farm in Dungeness, seafood from local waters.

Stark also taught cooking via demonstrations at the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival in Port Angeles in October.

When it comes to the local food movement, “he is the soul of it,” said festival director Scott Nagel.

To learn more and to sign up for any of his cooking classes, phone the Cultivated Palette at 360-379-2647.

Information also awaits at www.CultivatedPalette.com.

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 21. 2013 6:22PM
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