Haverford — Winter 2011
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Culinary Callings
Cheryl Sternman Rule

From upscale cafés to a bakery teaching job skills, Fords enter the food and beverage business to nourish body, mind and spirit.

Few dreams are as romantic, or as unrealistic, as running a food business. Anyone who has enjoyed a thoughtfully prepared meal at a wellappointed restaurant, downed a crisp beer at a lively watering hole, or relaxed with friends at a corner café has probably thought, at one time or another, what if? What if I were to devote my life to bringing people together, with food and drink as the magnet that attracts them, the mortar that binds them? What if my food, or my drink, or my restaurant could not only give great pleasure but also enlighten, transport and uplift?

For those who walk this unpredictable and bumpy path, the risks are great and the sacrifices many. But the rewards? While they certainly can be financial, more often than not they’re defined in highly personal terms, terms even those who experience them wouldn’t have predicted at the outset.

We talked to five Fords from different sectors of the food and beverage industry about their careers, what challenges they’ve faced, and what underlying goals propel them day to day.


David Gilberg ’01, a native of Rochester, N.Y., developed an early interest in watching people cook, and in high school he started working in restaurants himself. A sociology major, he eventually moved off campus and commuted to Haverford, dividing his time between his classes and his job at Novelty Restaurant & Bar in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. (The restaurant has since closed.) As part of the ExCo (Experimental College) program at Haverford, Gilberg and a friend taught a class on Rochester cuisine. Their specialty? The “garbage plate,” inspired, he says proudly, by a “sleazy, greasy joint serving macaroni salad, fried potatoes, burger Patties, raw onions and hot, greasy sauce on a Styrofoam plate. It was really delicious.”

After graduating, he transitioned from busboy to cook and spent the next nine years plying his craft at various restaurants, landing his first executive-chef position at the nowclosed Loie Brasserie. That’s where his wife, Carla Goncalves ’01, first joined him in the kitchen.

A psychology major at Haverford, Goncalves had worked in pharmaceutical marketing after graduation and then trained in massage therapy. But as a newlywed she found their disjointed schedules—Gilberg would get home at two in the morning, and she’d wake up at five to commute to work— made spending time together almost impossible. Despite her parents’ reservations (they had owned two pizzerias and didn’t want the same grueling work life for their daughter), she eventually changed course and entered the food industry Herself. “I figured, if it was good enough for them,” she says, “it’s good enough for me.”

In October 2009, the couple struck out on their own and opened Koo Zee Doo, a 42-seat Philadelphia restaurant honoring the rustic cuisine of Portugal, where Goncalves spent much of her childhood. The name reflects both the phonetic spelling of a Portuguese phrase (“something to be cooked”) and also a specific dish (a boiled dinner of meats, sausages, root vegetables and cabbage).

“It’s a very casual restaurant,” Gilberg says, “meant to make you feel like you’re eating in someone’s home.” The open kitchen is part of the dining room, and the large portions are served family-style. The food reflects regional coastal specialties centering on seafood, but includes plenty of pork and smoked sausages as well. Menus are seasonal, ingredients are locally procured whenever possible, and meats are hormone- free and organic. “It gets expensive,” Gilberg admits of sourcing this way, but he says the quality comes through in the finished product.

Located in the city’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, the restaurant is not yet 18 months old and has already made a splash. In 2010, Koo Zee Doo received four separate James Beard semifinalist nods—in the categories of Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Pastry Chef (for Goncalves), Best Chef: Mid- Atlantic Region (for Gilberg), and Rising Star Chef of the Year (also for Gilberg). Goncalves’ nomination was especially gratifying, as she’d only been cooking professionally for four years.

The two work “crazy chef hours” seven days a week, returning home well past midnight, and the financial strains have been marked. Even for a chef like Gilberg, who has been in the industry for years, owning a restaurant surprised him with its seemingly infinite hidden costs.

“It’s a really hard industry, no matter what part of it you’re in,” Goncalves says. “It’s time-consuming, and needs a lot of attention.” Gilberg agrees. To those who may be considering following a similar path, he says, “Whatever you do, bring a very clear intention to that goal, and follow through no matter how difficult it is.”

The couple remains committed to raising awareness about Portuguese food. “I think it’s underrepresented, and a really fantastic cuisine that very few people know about unless they grew up in a Portuguese community,” says Goncalves. Ultimately, despite the stresses and the hours, she says, “It’s worth it. If you’re passionate.”

More information: koozeedoo.com


Elsewhere in Philadelphia, another Haverford graduate has set down stakes in the food industry. In July 2004, Jon Myerow ’85, a Lexington, Mass., native and Russian major, opened Tria, a wine, cheese, and beer café in Center City that has drawn raves for its food, drink and knowledgeable service. “I wanted a concept that wasn’t as dumpy as a beer bar and not as high-concept as a wine bar,” he explains. “There were no European-style places like that at the time in Philly.”

Myerow hadn’t set out to be a restaurateur. An avid concert promoter at Haverford who orchestrated a high-profile benefit for a local woman in danger of losing her home, he says: “I knew I couldn’t promote concerts for a living. I thought restaurants were similar: Both are putting on a show where people are entertained.” He began busing tables after college,Then spent several years holding increasingly responsible positions in restaurants before pursuing his M.B.A. at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

Two years after Tria’s debut, Myerow took things a step further: In 2006, he opened The Fermentation School a few blocks away. Devoted to expanding his customers’ knowledge of Tria’s three specialties, and stoking their passion, the school offers classes that delve more deeply into small-production wines, cheeses and beers made by independent producers. Several times a week, experts, many of them world-renowned in their fields, come to teach in the school’s 24-seat classroom. “It’s great when you get people used to drinking industrial products to try products made by really passionate people,” Myerow says. The school also gives the visiting producers a chance to connect directly with consumers.

The Fermentation School grew out of early customer feedback and demand. Because Tria’s wine and beer lists were so carefully selected and aimed for depth over breadth, diners were always asking questions. “To a lot of people,” Myerow says, “a wine menu is gibberish.” Tria became known for its well-versed staff who could translate wine-, beer- and cheesespeak into terms customers could understand. “People would leave us comment cards saying, ‘You guys should teach classes,’ and so that’s what we did.”

With the school’s opening, Myerow reframed his business, focusing on both exposing his customer base to new tastes and educating them, but without pretension. Buzz followed. In 2006, Food & Wine magazine called The Fermentation School “one of America’s 50 most amazing wine experiences.”

Myerow’s operation has continued to flourish: He opened a second Tria in 2007, and just last fall he debuted Biba, a streamlined version of Tria with only 900 square feet and a more “overt focus on wine.” This newest venue is less about pushing boundaries, experimenting or educating, and more about encouraging locals to kick back and simply enjoy the wine. “We make it a point to say that we don’t have Tvs or karaoke, and we don’t offer WiFi,” Myerow says unapologetically. Instead, he wants the space, with its communal tables, to spark relaxed interaction.

“We’re all on our BlackBerries and computers and Facebook all day and night,” he says. “Just have a drink with someone, and talk to them.”

More information: triacafe.com


One brewer whose products Jon Myerow has recently featured at Tria is Shaun Hill ’01, whose reputation has generated excitement far beyond the walls of his small Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, Vt. Upon hearing that Hill would also be featured in this article, Myerow remarked, “It’s people like Shaun that we want to support and bring to people’s attention.”

And for good reason. Hill’s beers have received accolades from a vast network of beer enthusiasts, the mainstream beer press (think Beer Advocate) and professional beer judges across the globe. Three beers he created while working as a brewmaster in Denmark earned gold and silver awards at the World Beer Cup in 2010. His eight-month-old brewery is already flooded with visitors from around the state and further afield.

Hill brews on his family’s ancestral farmland with the aid of a single apprentice. He works seven days a week and admits, “I never leave work.” Though he will bring on his first true employee in a few weeks, he says, “The business is me, ultimately. It’s a true expression of myself. My life has been revolvIng around beer for a long time. It’s kind of like being a parent, in a way. You’re always thinking of your children.” Taking that family connection a step further, Hill has named a number of his beers after family members, including an American pale ale named for his grandfather, Edward, and an Imperial IPA (India pale ale) named after his father, Abner.

Hill keeps tight control over production, and his distribution radius is still relatively small. Though demand is soaring, his beer is available only in select locations in Vermont, Philadelphia and New York City, for now. Boston’s next on his list, probably in the summer of 2011.

His controlled growth is very much by design, and it illustrates Hill’s deep-seated commitment to sustainable production. For now, he’s putting all of his earnings back into the business. “We could have gone the usual route and borrowed $2 million. But we’re interested in sustainable growth. ... I don’t want to just keep growing. I don’t want an industrial park in my front yard. I don’t think it’s good for the land. I want to be profitable and make this into a mecca of sustainability. I’m trying to find the balance between theory and practice.”

If Hill sounds like a philosopher, that’s because he is. A philosophy major at Haverford who studied under Drs. Lucius Outlaw (now at Vanderbilt), Ashok Gangadean, Danielle Macbeth and Aryeh Kosman, Hill’s speech, and his beer, are peppered with references to his academic studies. He’s even named his winter porter (with hints of coffee and cinnamon) after Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols. His Baltic porter, aged in French oak cabernet barrels, is named Fear and Trembling, after a work by Søren Kierkegaard.

With Hill Farmstead Brewery, Hill is fulfilling a long-held dream that took shape when he made his first beer for a high school science project at age 15. He started brewing more seriously at Haverford, securing SGA funds to create a homebrewing club with some friends. Since then, he has traveled the world in devotion to his craft. “There’s a huge trend of new small brewers,” Hill says, “but our approach is the next wave. We’re taking the IPAs and the pale ales and making them the best they can be. We’re working within the existing canon, then redefining it and making it better.”

His goal, by Memorial Day, is to open a full bar and barrel-aging facility onsite in Greensboro, where “folks will be surrounded by 50 oak barrels full of beer” in a space designed by his brother Darren, a master woodworker.

“You have to be a zealot,” Hill admits. “If you are not a perfectionist, it is going to show through.”

More information: hillfarmstead.com


Back in 2004, Haverford magazine profiled cultural anthropologist Amy Trubek ’85, then executive director of the Vermont Fresh Network, a nonprofit linking local farmers to restaurateurs. Bing Broderick ’85, her friend and classmate, was mentioned in the article, too, as he had recently completed a culinary program at the Ballymaloe Cooking School in County Cork, Ireland, and was working with Trubek on several of Vermont Fresh’s farmers’ dinners. “Amy and I had been friends since college, and food was always part of our conversation,” Broderick says. “She was always a mentor to me.”

Since that interview more than six years ago, Broderick has established firm roots of his own in a special part of the food industry—the part that nurtures others not just in body, but in spirit. After returning to the Boston area, where he’d left a career in public television and the arts, Broderick volunteered with the nonprofit Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets and the Boston Public Market. When he heard that Haley House, a space founded in 1966 to serve the homeless, was set to open a nonprofit café in 2005, he applied for a job and was hired as bakery manager.

Prior to his arrival, his boss had done a lot of work with Roxbury’s homeless population and knew that few options for healthful food existed in the neighborhood. Fast food and Sub shops abounded, but her vision was to bring nutritious food to the forefront.

Today, Broderick is the marketing director for Haley House. In this capacity, his responsibilities extend beyond the Bakery Café to other parts of the organization, such as the soup kitchen, low-income housing and organic farm.

The café offers health, nutrition, and culinary-education classes in a program called Take Back the Kitchen, started by founding chef Didi Emmons and a local communityservice police officer, Bill Baxter. It also runs a program designed for those transitioning from incarceration, called the Transitional Employment Program (TEP), offering work and life skills to men looking to reenter the workforce after serving terms in prison.

In addition to training these former inmates, who live in a local halfway house, the program serves as an informal support group and teaches practical job skills—in this case baking— while also providing tutoring and other services. The men bake chocolate-chip cookies for Northeastern University and Boston College, which helps pay for the costs of the program and provides them with a paycheck. “One thing that’s Very important to me is the notion that there’s an opportunity for everyone to learn,” says Broderick. “And I’ve learned a ton from our trainees.”

The Bakery Café also hosts frequent free community events and fund-raisers, events that draw participants from all over the city. On a quarterly basis, it offers film screenings with a meal as part of its “Dinner and a Movie” partnership with the Roxbury International Food Festival.

And last fall, they partnered with local nonprofit Discover Roxbury on a monthly series to celebrate the histories of Haitian, Jewish and Somali communities in Roxbury, with the café serving meals that reflect the cultures being feted. Broderick recalls a Haitian reporter telling him after one event, “If you’d told me I’d be sitting at a restaurant in my neighborhood eating a Haitian meal, I never would have believed you.”

More information: haleyhouse.org

Cheryl Sternman Rule ’92 (cherylsternmanrule.com) is a San Jose-based food writer. Her first cookbook, RIPE: Satisfy Your Lust for Fruits and Vegetables with 75 Fresh Recipes and Hundreds of Simple Combinations, will be published by Running Press in 2012.