March 17, 2003
Chef Bruce Aidells hopes to counter promotion
of highly processed foods
By Scott Rappaport
Renowned chef and cookbook author Bruce Aidells has pledged a $20,000
gift to establish a cookery endowment at UCSC.
|Bruce Aidells, who has written 11 cookbooks,
ran a restaurant called Fat Alberts Rotunda when he was a student
at UCSC. Photo courtesy Bruce Aidells
Aidells is the author of 11 cookbooks, including the meat and poultry
chapters for the newly revised Joy of Cooking. He has also been
a guest chef on a wide variety of television shows such as Martin Yans
Yan Can Cook, Martha Stewarts From Marthas Kitchen,
and Cooking Live with Sarah Molton.
"Im interested in making this endowment so future generations
have access to information about how to cook, since that information
is no longer being passed down from mother to daughter, or mother to
son," Aidells said. "I want to do as much as I can so that
we dont produce a generation of students who depend on corporations
to put a hot meal on the table."
Aidells hopes to counter the corporate promotion of highly processed
foods with a complete range of educational materials that promote the
values and various techniques of home cooking with high-quality fresh
foods. The goal is to give students a lifelong appreciation for good
food, plus an awareness of the role that raising, preparing, and sharing
food plays in creating community across the world.
An alumnus of UCSC, Aidells earned a Ph.D. in biology in 1974. He worked
as a research fellow at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London
for three years, before heading off to a two-year stint with the National
Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Though he found the English
intellectual approach to science appealing, he soon gave up science
for a career in the kitchen.
"I made a lifestyle decision that it was more important for me
to remain in the Bay Area than find a job in science in an area of the
country where I didnt want to live," Aidells said. "And
I always thought I was a better cook than I was a scientist," he
Aidells had briefly tasted the life of a restaurateur during his student
days at UCSC. An amateur cook in his spare time, he had been given the
opportunity to design and build his own small restaurant on campus in
the early 1970s, during the planning stages of what is now Kresge College.
"It was called Fat Alberts Rotunda, named after the cover of a
Herbie Hancock album," Aidells recalled. "I was officially
a graduate student. But I had to give up my restaurant when my graduate
adviser said he hadnt seen me in the lab in six months."
He went on to create Aidells Sausage Company in 1983, providing his
own handcrafted sausages to chef friends at some of the Bay Areas
top restaurants. The business was wildly successful, and he became a
familiar figure in the cooking world.
Aidells has since made more than 30 appearances on Bay Area television,
and has appeared with wife Nancy Oakes (chef and co-owner of Boulevard
Restaurant in San Francisco and the James Beard Foundations 2001
"Best Chef in California") on shows such as PBSs Rising
Star Chefs and the Food Channels TV News. He is additionally
a regular contributor to national magazines such as Gourmet, Bon
Appetit, Fine Cooking, and Cooking Light.
Aidells said he was currently working on a new cookbook about pork,
which will be published by HarperCollins in 2005. He spends his time
now writing books, testing recipes, and teaching cooking classes. Aidells
recently traveled to Texas for one such course.
"I like the fact that a guy from Berkeley, California, goes to
Texas to teach a bunch of Texans how to cook meat," he observed
The UCSC endowment income will be used to create and maintain a core
collection of books, periodicals, audiovisual materials, personal papers,
and archives at the University Library on the subjects of cooking, eating,
and gastronomy. Aidells has also agreed to provide content for an online
cooking site which would be linked to the librarys home page,
and aimed at teaching students how to stock a kitchen and prepare food.
Eventual plans may include cooking classes held at the organic farm
on campus, as well as lectures, food demonstrations, and even a café.