2012 Hands

Heath Thomson. Originally from Northern California, Heath first came to Boulder to earn his degree in environmental design at CU. But after spending a full year rendering a single office chair for a design firm in New Zealand, he decided to focus his attention and creativity on his true passion: food. His search for materie prime has taken him to some far flung places—foraging for chanterelles in the woods of Upper Michigan, rounding up livestock at a sheep station downunder, pulling king salmon out of the frigid waters of Alaska. But his cooking experience isn't limited to campfires and cast iron skillets. Heath has cooked in several highly acclaimed Bay Area establishments, including Boulette's Larder, in San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace. In fact, when he first crossed his arms and leaned back to inspect our battered wood-burning grill, we worried he might be disappointed to give up his gleaming copper pots for a place in our kitchen bus. But then his gaze gave way to a broad smile and he said, simply, "I can't wait." That's when we knew we'd found our guy.

Blake King. Blake has always been destined for a life in food, even though it took him a bit to realize it. As a student at the University of South Carolina, he studied English and Marketing, which led to a position as senior editor at PR Newswire in Washington D.C.. But editorial work left Blake cold, and he sought a way closer to the hearth. Without even attending culinary school, Blake landed a job in the kitchen at D.C.'s Central Michel Richard, and from there joined the small team in the kitchen of Palena. It was at Palena that Blake learned to love the fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen, and where he first experienced whole animal butchery and seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. He followed the allure of just-picked sweet corn and sun-kissed peaches right out to Colorado, joined Meadow Lark, and immersed himself in Boulder's food and farm scene. At Meadow Lark, Blake foraged for elderflowers which he turned into cordials, and spent a considerable amount of time at Rebecca's Apothecary, returning with angelica and burdock root for his homemade bitters. And in his spare time, he staged in Boulder's best restaurants and volunteered at several of the farms that host our dinners. By the end of our season, he'd moved in at Pachamama! In the end, it was the camaraderie and excitement of a fast-paced kitchen where Blake was most at home—at Meadow Lark, he was perfectly in his element whenever a violent thunderstorm bore down on us! In the fall, Blake left his quiet farm-side abode and headed for the bustling Commander's Palace in New Orleans.

Jessica Haden. Jessica is a native Coloradan—but she is thoroughly Italian at heart. After studying Linguistics at CU Boulder, Jessica made the move to the country she called home before she ever set foot there. In Italy, she attended the Slow Food-founded University of Gastronomic Sciences and earned a master's degree in Italian Gastronomy and Tourism. During her program, Jessica tasted her way through the country, from the sheep farms of Sicily to Piemonte's famous vineyards—and she perfected her Italian language, gestures and habits (Jessica's moka percolator would take up permanent residence on Bella's dash, and afternoon espresso became a dinner-day ritual). We were lucky that Jessica was drawn back to Colorado to spend a summer with her family and friends. At Meadow Lark, we learned how to say 'beet' in Italian (barbabietola), became acquainted with berbere, and toasted Jessica's homemade marshmallows over our wood fire one late night after dinner. Only weeks after our season ended, Jessica made her way back 'home'. She now lives and works at Tenuta di Spannocchia, a 1,100 acre estate of forests, animal pastures and crops south of Siena. As Spannocchia Foundation's education director, Jessica oversees the residential farm internship and education program, and she shares her love of Italian culture and conviviality with lucky Tuscan travelers.

Shona Paterson. Shona came to Meadow Lark on her bicycle—every day. When we met, she'd never owned an automobile. But that did not keep her from being mobile. To the contrary! After growing up in rural Pennsylvania and earning a degree in Comparative Literature from Penn State, Shona hit the road. She cycled through Europe, wwoofed her way through Central and South America, and eventually found the mountains of Colorado. Here, she began working in mountain kitchens and on gardening crews, and even helped run a crêpe cart pulled by…. a bicycle! It's probably no surprise that Shona found her way to Bella, our mobile kitchen. As part of the Meadow Lark troupe, Shona kept spirits high with her ever-changing flavors of sparkling whey soda, and with her always-cheerful disposition. She even single-handedly cheered Bella out of several feet of mud during a record-breaking rain storm. Since Meadow Lark, Shona has become a reluctant car owner. This acquisition has allowed her to live in the mountains while also working at Lykin's Gulch Farm. And it hasn't slowed her down one bit: at every opportunity, she still makes the leap to South America to sink her hands into the soils of organic farms.

Whitney Flight. Originally from Connecticut, Whitney attended Miami University in Ohio to study Mass Communication. She put her newly acquired skills to use in Washington D.C. with a job in Marketing & Communications at Rebuilding Together, a nation-wide non-profit that works to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize neighborhoods. After several years in D.C., Whitney had grown interested in taking her commitment to social values into the world of food and dining, and came to Boulder to participate in a month-long social entrepreneurship workshop. When she learned of a last-minute opening in our 2012 Meadow Lark troupe, she cancelled her return flight and boarded our bus. Whitney brought the grace and glamour of fine dining to the front of our field, welcoming guests and finding the kindest of ways to say "don't even think of setting that iPhone on the table!" And she held her own in the kitchen, too, wielding her sweet new orange-handled chef's knife, which Heath quickly nicknamed Hot Sauce. By the end of our season, Whitney still had no desire to make use of her return ticket. She joined our friends at The Kitchen, and now, as Head Host, Whitney welcomes and herds the steady stream of people vying for a seat at the busy downtown restaurant.