Sylva: a free spirit

My parents were both raised in rural environments, my father in Taiwan and my mother in Canada. Together they passed to my brother and me an appreciation for the land. We were urban farmers long before it was trendy. When we lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we raised chickens and ducks in our garage, tapped local trees for syrup, hunted morels in old apple orchards, and raised bees in the back yard. We experimented with whatever our parents found interesting or possible. We made tofu, yogurt, applesauce, beer, and dandelion wine. A considerable amount of what we consumed was planted and harvested from our half-acre. I consider my parents pioneers of today’s garden-to-table and maker movements.

I bring this free spirit into my cooking by always using the freshest ingredients and by building relationships with makers, artisans, farmers, and butchers. A visitor to my home will find cookbooks in almost every room of the house. I follow food blogs, fellow chefs, and cool restaurants to learn about food trends worldwide. Making good food takes practice, curiosity and research. My neighbors and friends are often the recipients of my experiments, practice drills and culinary ideas. Seeing people gathered around the table with family and friends — eating, laughing and sharing the day’s event–provides me with a great sense of achievement.

...all the charming and beautiful
things, from the Song of Songs, to
bouillabaisse, and from the nine
Beethoven symphonies to the Martini
cocktail, have been given to humanity
by men who, when the hour came,
turned from tap water to something
with color in it, and more in it than
mere oxygen and hydrogen.

- H.L. Mencken