Employee Spotlight: Chef Seth Freedman
Chef Seth Freedman, who serves as Culinary Director at PeachDish, is a long time member of Atlanta’s good food movement. In addition to the time he spent in some of Atlanta’s most revered restaurant kitchens, Seth worked as the Program Director for Seeds of Nutrition, a farm to school pilot program aimed at developing standards-based, hands-on garden and cooking curriculum for children from kindergarten to fifth grade. Seth also spent several years working with Community Farmers Markets as the official Chef at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market. During this time, he established and developed connections between CFM and local schools, after school clubs, senior living facilities, and other community organizations. At these community connection posts, he shared his culinary knowledge and expertise, giving hands on cooking instruction as he explained how farmers markets can benefit an individual's health and community.
As Market Chef, Seth served as the resident expert cooking and teaching at each market. Each week, he designed recipes with the novice cook and Georgia farmer equally in mind, which is to say recipes that are simple to follow, use seasonal ingredients, and taste delicious. Each week he created dishes with produce purchased from market vendors and gave samples along with a take home recipe card.
Designing a recipe for a new, home cook is a difficult task for a professional chef. How does someone like Chef Seth, who has a high degree of culinary expertise and knowledge, make what is implicit to him seem simple and explicit to a home cook? Seth has many tricks. One of his favorites is using his left hand to chop vegetables instead of his dominant hand when determining how long a recipe will take for a beginning cook. Another is watching other PeachDish team members that are less experienced follow his recipes to see how they interpret his instructions.
Many times, Seth would encounter customers at the market who would not want to purchase a vegetable or follow a recipe becaue they claimed to not like a particular vegetable. However, years of experience has taught Seth that a good recipe can change minds. He calls this method the “come to okra” approach.
For readers less versed in the Southern vernacular, this is a play on the phrase “come to Jesus.” A “come to Jesus” moment is an epiphany --- an “ah ha!” moment of realization that changes the way an individual approaches or considers something.
According to Seth, there are some vegetables at farmers markets are commonly cooked in ways that do not highlight thier best qualities. He gives three examples: okra, Brussels sprouts, and eggplant. Seth has a few recipes in his arsenal that change minds and transform a once disliked vegetable into a new favorite. He explained with okra:
“There are a number of okra recipes, especially bad fried okra recipes. An alternative to frying is to grill or to broil it. If you sample charred okra after only tasting fried, the new taste is transformative: The okra retains its crunch. Keeping it whole mitigates the mucilaginous properties associated with some okra. Those compounds that would become slime in a fried dish are instead absorbed by the flesh. This is especially true if you also use vinegar, it cuts right through any remaining slime.”
Seth loves cooking and Seth loves teaching. This is as obvious when he reminisces on his former role at farmers markets as it was when he discusses his role at PeachDish. He believes that the objectives for both positions are not so different; both as Market Chef and as PeachDish Culinary Director, Seth helps people approach the idea of cooking for themselves and gives them the tools to do so in away that improves their health and supports Georgia’s local farming community.
If you’re local to Atlanta and curious about trying some of Chef Seth’s recipes come see us at a farmers market near you. PeachDish is now attending the Sandy Springs Heritage Farmer’s Market as well as the Piedmont Park Green Market.