Bwog has teamed up with the Food Pantry at Columbia to produce a four-part series of cooking videos, using ingredients that are found in the Food Pantry at Columbia. The chef for this episode is Chris Thompson, and he’s cooking a wild mushroom and bean ragout with creamy grits!
Firstly, give us a quick introduction about yourself!
My name is Christopher Thompson. I’m a senior in General Studies, studying Sociocultural Anthropology. I graduate this December. In addition to finishing my term as the Student Body President for General Studies, I also serve as the Vice President of the Columbia Recovery Coalition.
Why and how did you get involved with the Food Pantry at Columbia, and what inspired you to make these cooking videos for them?
The Food Pantry, on top of being a critically important cause on campus, intersected early on with a lot of the advocacy work I was doing both in the recovery sphere and with Student Council. It just became a situation where I found myself working toward a lot of the same goals and occupying a lot of the same spaces that the Food Pantry team was, so my involvement started there. I was also a chef for almost ten years before I came back to college, so it felt natural to leverage that expertise on behalf of such a great cause.
How did you get into cooking, and what is your favorite thing to cook?
I was a chef for nine years before I came back to college when I turned 30. I worked mostly in New Orleans (where I’m from), but also in Los Angeles and overseas, in Croatia. I worked primarily in fine dining, and because of that, I’d have to say that my favorite things to cook are things that focus on simplicity, elegance, and deep engagement with technique. A good, simple gumbo or a cassoulet are two examples of things I love to cook because they focus on the process.
Where does this recipe come from? Do you use cookbooks for inspiration, or is it all trial and error?
Recipes and cookbooks are a source of great inspiration for me. I like to think of them as a jumping-off point, a place to gather ideas and set intentions before I start to work. I cannot say I very often follow recipes strictly, but they are an important step in the process of understanding what it is I want to accomplish. Cooking, to me, is a lifelong process of trial and error. We learn by doing, and so the bits of knowledge transmitted to us through cooking are as tactile and sensory and felt as they are intellectually comprehended. It’s a process that takes time, and lots of failures, but I’ve found that with repetitive failure (and some small successes) comes the confidence to experiment, or to veer off course with purpose.
Image via Bwogger