About Erin Baker
Chef Erin Baker
Founder, Natural Cookery School
I’m a chef at heart. I’ve tried to change careers, to leave behind the unsociable hours and physical strain, but it always calls me back – a deeply rooted love for bringing ingredients and cooking together, to create memories. I’m always looking to learn and for new inspiration, so when teaching and the Natural Cookery School came into being, it sealed the deal you might say.
After a stint volunteering with Food Not Bombs and a job creating The Sweet Lilac Deli, a take away at a small health food co-operative in Vermont, I knew cooking was for me. But it wasn’t until I went to culinary school that I truly fell in love with the idea of being a chef. The sweat of the kitchen, the pressure of service, the creativity and freedom of knowing how to cook. I loved it all. But I was vegetarian. Luckily, one of my tutors attended the Culinary Institute of America, a very prestigious cookery school. She had learned the basics from the bones up, before going vegan. Together we created and owned Sparks, an award winning vegan restaurant north of San Francisco. Here I gained a foundation in traditional cookery and was able to apply it to a career in natural, vegetarian food.
One of the first places I cut my teeth as a trained chef was at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in California. This remarkable place is an organic, living laboratory and has been a major influence in my life and career. For almost four years I was lucky enough to be a garden-to-kitchen chef for the center’s workshops and events. Here began my connection with seed to plate, farm to fork, plot to plate – call it what you will.
I have explorer’s feet and our world is a great source of inspiration to me, so I might be teaching people how to cook Thai food in a Thai class, but with locally grown, seasonal vegetables. Taking the season into consideration and sourcing produce close to home is a big part of my approach and something I try to inspire in all my classes.
I’ve been teaching since 2002, but not always in the kitchen. Whether I’m working at a community allotment or catering an event, delicious, healthy recipes never fail to inspire new ways of thinking about food and the way we eat day to day. It might be that someone decides to grow vegetables on their windowsill at home, go foraging, or decorate a dish with edible flowers – the Natural Cookery School is all about gaining confidence and creativity. To ultimately feel natural with ingredients and the kitchen.