Friends of the tribe: Callie R Waldman
Follow Callie R Waldman for more interesting ideas and fun recipes.What makes San Francisco a great city to be a chef in?
The fact that so many people here love food. Similarly to how a musician’s fans power the success of an artist, no chef would be able to successfully pursue a culinary career if it weren’t for all you foodies out there who really care about what you put in your bodies.
How is working in an IT company better or worse than a restaurant?
It’s entirely different, and for me—much better. Absolutely, the number one advantage is the relationships that are naturally created when feeding the same people every day. One afternoon, one of our software engineers saw me assembling burritos and wanted to know the best way to roll them, so I let him take over until he got the hang of it. Interactions like that could never happen in a restaurant. I’ve become familiar with each employee’s dietary restrictions, food allergies and food preferences and that’s a pretty intimate thing to know. After working as a Corporate Chef for the past two years, I couldn’t imagine cooking from the same menu every day where meals go through the double doors having no idea who’s on the other side.
I heard that you like
to plan ahead for a week? Can you give me a quick peek into a typical week plan?
Sure! I do two meals per day—usually breakfast and lunch, except on Wednesdays when I cook dinner. If I’m really on top of things, I’ll have next week’s meals planned out by the Wednesday before, and all the food ordered by Thursday.
Are you researching on a secret ingredient or a dish that boosts the productivity of the employees?
It’s all about greens. Incorporating dark leafy greens into any diet will elevate you into feeling like a super hero, and I hope that’s no secret. I’ve recently been sneaking super food green powders into homemade breakfast cookies and granola bars. My two favorites are Vital Scoop by Dr. Ed Bauman, and Vitamineral Green Powder by Healthforce Nutritionals.
Do you change the menu everyday or do you have a routine with signature specials?
I follow a loose structure that still allows for a lot of creative freedom. For example, Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays. This sometimes means traditional Mexican tacos with salsa, guacamole and the whole works, but I’ve also done a Japanese ‘Sushi Taco’ twist or Thai or Indian taco fusions.
How involved are you in the financial running of the kitchen?
Lucky for me (and lucky for BandPage), not much. We have an amazing Accountant who miraculously tracks all company expenses. I came up with our budget at the beginning, and so that’s easy for me to stick to. But beyond that and placing food orders, all I do is forward invoices and then I can forget about them. Let’s just say that finances are not one of my strong suits.
Working in a tech company, how does constant technological innovation affect your culinary education?
Just like all the other BandPage employees, I was given a laptop to use while I’m at work. My computer has earned its VIP spot—front and center and very within reach on my stainless steel prep table. Any time I second guess anything, I refer to my personal culinary tutors: Google and Youtube. In a much broader sense, technology innovation is transforming the way we are able to access and share information. Within the culinary world, online platforms like Cucumbertown add an element of social networking to allow for that learning to happen instantaneously.
Many of us eat our meals at the work desk in between typing, or going through e-mails. Do you feel under appreciated as a corporate chef?
Underappreciated—no. It makes complete sense that tech company employees must schedule their days around meetings, deadlines and their own personal goals. I just feel sad if it ever becomes a regular thing for anybody to work so much that they can’t take a 30 minute break.
Food trends – hate it / love it?
Food trends are fun to read about, and other than that I’m pretty indifferent about food industry pop culture. Diet fads drive me absolutely crazy (like low carb, low-fat, etc). Because of our different bodies, lifestyles and origins, it’s absolutely impossible that one way of eating will be good for everyone. Instead, it’s all about listening to your body and determining what feels good (or doesn’t feel good) for you. And if you’re still not sure, just read Michael Pollan.
What’s your current favorite food trend?
We’re on a roll with gluten-free products, and I appreciate the trend simply because its increased access is causing incredible lifestyle improvements for those who really can’t handle that protein. I’m not saying that the world should go gluten-free. That would be unnecessary and expensive, and also culturally insensitive to those regions whose cuisines have relied on the cultivation of wheat (or barley or rye) for centuries.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’ve always been a visual learner. And so for me, simply seeing food pictures is enough to get my creative juices flowing (and it doesn’t hurt if there’s a list of ingredients to go with). Anytime I’m excited about a menu while eating out, I’ll take a picture of it with my phone, or jot down some notes in my menu planner real quick. I have a lot of really talented friends in the chef world as well, and we’re always exchanging ideas. Or sometimes, all it takes is opening my fridge and in discovering what needs to get used, I can mentally piece together a meal.
Is there anyone you have trained or mentored? Where are they now?
Not really. A good friend of mine from culinary school, Ken Hernandez, went on to become the Corporate Chef at Couchsurfing. He continues to cook for CS and has also started his own cooperative catering program called Collective Greensf. He and his team provide a number of San Francisco Startups with healthy, fresh lunch every day. It feels really supportive to have a friend who understands the excitement and challenges of the Corporate Chef industry, and so we keep in touch often just to share about what we’re both up to.
Your favorite cuisine to cook? Share your favorite recipe.
So here’s the thing. For the employees at BandPage who choose to opt in on meals, it’s as if they’re eating at the same restaurant five days per week. It’s in their best interest (and mine) to be comfortable with a variety of flavor profiles and cuisines. We’re spoiled here in California because the quality and variety of food that grows is so incredible. I believe that great food starts with rich, healthy soil and then from there, using simple technique in order to maintain the integrity of the food in its whole form.
Here’s a recipe that I came up with while I was in Culinary School, and I still use variations of it all the time.
What are the must have’s in your kitchen?
Aside from a sharp chef knife my favorite tools are my micro plane and hand-held citrus Juicer. Also I have a Breville Food Processor that I use daily. It came with a medley of blades that allow me to slice, shred, whisk and dice. I call it my “sous-chef”.
Almost all professional chefs I know live on boiled veggies. What do you cook for yourself on a typical day?
I really can’t bring myself to cook if there’s no one around to share. Often I’ll just assemble meals out of leftovers I’ve already cooked, and add in some greens to turn it into a salad. My roommates love to cook as well, so sometimes I’ll just come home from work and grab some of what they’ve made.
Who are your chef friends who you turn to for constant inspiration, feedback, and just good food?
Aubrey Saltus (Thumbtack Corporate Chef), Kenneth Hernandez (Couchsurfing Corporate Chef), and Sam Lippman (Airbnb Corporate Chef) all have cooking styles that are somewhat similar to mine, and so I’ll often follow them for inspiration. Benjamin Westenburg is another really amazing chef who does a lot of consulting around restaurant development strategy. I treat his advice like gold. I also really look up to Tim West (Food Industry Entrepreneur) and Michael Hebb (Food Provocateur) who take an innovative approach to food, using the industry as a vessel for inspiring positive, forward thinking change.
Callie R Waldman is an amazing Corporate Chef mixing it up with different cuisines and making sure there isn’t a dull day at the BandPage kitchen. And she can’t have enough of peanut butter. Get peeks of all that’s cooking right here..