‘Colorado Organic’ in Carbondale
May 12, 2009
CARBONDALE ” As a high school student, Jennifer Olson worked in a Subway restaurant. She loved the experience, especially the contact with people ” enough that she spent over a decade working in restaurants, from fast food joints to fine dining spots.
But it’s hard to imagine Olson being inspired enough by Subway to create a lavish photo book, detailing the look of the foot-long, the philosophy behind the New Flatbread Sandwich Creations, the personalities who assemble the Big Philly. It took a higher level of culinary experience to move Olson to combine her two passions, food and photography.
“Colorado Organic” spotlights the people whom Olson considers at the top of the state’s food chain. The book, published in December, focuses on several dozen Coloradans who emphasize putting fresh, local ingredients in their dishes, and on the table. Among those profiled ” in photos by Olson, text by Cecily Cullen and Mindy Sink, and recipes by the various chefs ” are Ryan Hardy of the Little Nell, and Mark Fischer of Six89 in Carbondale.
Olson is celebrating the book with meals by each of her subjects. The second dinner is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Six89. On the menu are dishes featured in the book, including beef short ribs with blue cheese grits (with beef supplied by Milagro Ranch in Missouri Heights); salt cod fritters with North Fork chips; and sticky toffee pudding. Also to be served: a signed copy of “Colorado Organic.”
At first Olson, a 35-year-old Boulderite, wanted to make any sort of book. Restaurant work was enjoyable, but she recognized that photography was her passion, and she was looking for a way to make her name in the field. She narrowed her search to a subject she knew well.
“I wanted to focus on a bunch of great chefs, and what they do to make a difference,” she said.
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And it was a particular kind of chef she was interested in: Having worked at Denver’s Rioja, and witnessed chef Jennifer Jasinski’s commitment to fresh foods, Olson wanted to spotlight the movement toward local and organic food.
“I had never worked in a restaurant where someone made everything from scratch,” said Olson. “Jennifer definitely opened my eyes to fresh, seasonal ingredients.”
Olson, whose grandparents operated a dairy farm in Washington state, knew that fresh ingredients didn’t just appear in a restaurant kitchen. So she includes farmers and ranchers in “Colorado Organic.” Among the growers profiled are Don Lareau and Daphne Yannakakis of Zephyros Farms in Paonia, who will be in attendance at Wednesday’s event.
“It’s close to my heart,” said Olson, of farmers. “I’ve worked with this subject before. So the farms just came into the picture.”
Profiling producers side by side with chefs helps further one of the major goals of the organic movement: to tighten the connection between the meal in a restaurant and the raw ingredients where the meal originated. Olson points to Hardy ” who also owns Rendezvous Farm in Delta County ” as someone who illuminates the line from soil to plate.
“It’s amazing how inspired he is by the land,” said Olson.
Olson also gives proper credit to the food itself. Just-picked food has a look that catches her photographer’s eye.
“There’s nothing better than walking into a farmers’ market and seeing this beautiful, fresh produce,” she said. “I think a lot of people have that experience, walking into the farmers’ market and thinking, ‘This can’t be real.’
“And going on a farm, you have these rich textures and colors. Someone pulls a carrot out of the ground, and it’s covered with dirt and you see their fingers. It’s a feast to the eye. And it makes you want to eat.”