Who's That Gal: Brooke Barsanti, Food + Wine Program Manager at BCAE
Name: Brooke Barsanti
Occupation: Food and Wine Program Manager
Alma Mater: Roanoke + Northeastern
Current Hood: Beacon Hill
What inspired you to get involved in the food industry?
My first jobs were in local restaurants and snack bars - I always loved the energy and sense of urgency that a restaurant provided, but knew I didn’t want to work in restaurants forever. Hospitality seemed like the next best fit. I started event planning, and after trying my hand at both corporate and special events, I realized it wasn’t for me. The experience taught me that I love creating menus! Food is such a central part of any event and can be a maker or a breaker.
Through event planning I learned that not all food related careers are inside a restaurant. Eventually, I found my current position (which I LOVE) through connections…things always seem to happen that way - network, network, network!
What does a typical day on the job look like for you as a BCAE food and wine programmer?
The best thing about my job is that every day is different. My main task is to consistently bring new and trendy classes to BCAE while also continuing the core classes. To research new class ideas, I travel to new restaurants, farms, distilleries and meet tons of people in the industry. I talk to amazing chefs and plan really cool classes in our state of the art kitchens (which got all new appliances this year). Networking and brainstorming event ideas is another big part of my job.
The BCAE is a small team so I have my hands in almost everything - from strategic planning to cleaning the bathrooms!
Why do you think food education and collaboration amongst the students, chefs, mixologists, distributors, farmers is so important?
It is important to be mindful of what we put in our bodies and how it affects the world around us. People are realizing that eating less processed and more local food, not only make a difference in our bodies -- but in our surroundings. Chemicals, hormones, and pesticides are impacting public health (and beyond) in a big way. Naturally, people want to know more. Why? How? What can I do to help? The BCAE is using fun and engaging methods to give people the information to make better choices.
How can the average person incorporate more organic / sustainable practices on a daily, monthly, yearly basis?
It is not easy; you just have to make a decision about what is important to you. Learn about natural foods that last longer and get really good at grocery shopping. Go to the store with a list. Plan it out so you don’t waste food. Local and organic dairy and meat are worth the money. I usually buy organic and local produce as much as I can, but I’m not as particular about is as I am with dairy and meat. I approach weekly groceries with a budget in mind, usually around $80-$100/week (if I’m only cooking for myself). That includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, and at least three dinners.
One of my favorite seasonal dishes: roast cubed butternut squash for 15 minutes, then drizzle with melted Vermont creamery butter and top with pecans and sage. Some of my other favorite meals to cook are local, wild caught fish including mussels from Maine. Mussels are affordable (about $7 for two pounds) and easy to cook (start to finish 10 mins): just steam them and serve with olive oil, lemon, and scallions. Yum!
How else do you practice a healthy lifestyle?
I sleep a lot, eat a lot, and move a lot. I typically go to bed at 9-9:30pm, and wake up around 5:30 - 6:30am. I don’t drink caffeine; I work out almost every day - usually yoga or running.
I work hard to maintain a balance for everything that is important to me: family, friends, boyfriend, work, vacation, leafy green salads, French fries etc.
Where do you see the future of the food industry going?
Right now, the trend is simple, casual, less-processed food. In the short term, I definitely see white tablecloth dining making a comeback. I also see more restaurants paying better attention to food sourcing, possibly having their own greenhouses and gardens. I see more emphasis on local and organic.
Local foraging is a growing trend that more chefs will incorporate into their menus. You’d be surprised how much food is available right here in Boston! I once made a jam from crab apples I found in the South End!
In the more distant future, everything will go more digital. Think 3d menus, less wait staff. pre-ordering, etc.
You’ve been recognized by Zagat’s 30 Under 30 and as one of Boston’s Top Food Instagrammers, congratulations! What advice do you have for someone looking to break into the food industry, whether as a restaurateur, chef, blogger, influencer etc?
Network. Getting to know the right people will expose you to the ins and outs of the industry.
The food industry operates differently than some others; you need a genuine interest and passion for its curves and quirks.
What is the best career advice you’ve received to date?
One piece of advice that has really stuck with me is from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. She talked about how people always get that feeling that they’re going to be found a big fraud. It is OK (good actually) not to know everything. Be confident in what you do know, because you’re not a fraud. Keep believing that you deserve to be where you are.
What are some upcoming classes at the BCAE we can look forward to?
This fall there will be a fermentation class. Fermented food is trendy and expensive, but super cheap to make at home. Another class that that I’m really looking forward to is a class on foraging that we will be hosting in the spring.
We also have some specialty events coming up, think seafood sustainability cooking classes – What are some environmentally friendly fish to be eating? Why is it important? Where do I buy them? How do I cook them?
Finally, we are partnering with Sweet Georgia P’s in Vermont to do some really interesting classes that will take students out of the city and onto the farm – in addition we are becoming a pickup location for Sweet Georgia P’s CSA!
What’s next for YOU?
I really want to start something - but I’m not quite sure what that would look like. Publish a book? Start a company?
THE FUN STUFF
Ingredient you can’t live without: olive oil, rosemary, or mint
Halloween 2015 costume: Forest Gump and Jenny!
The emoji you use most: Classic smiley
Currently reading: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, Boston Magazine’s 25 Best New Restaurants article, and Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton