Kitchen Break

Writers and artists speak in hushed tones about residencies, those much-sought-after opportunities to leave the real world and head to an artist colony to work on your craft for a few weeks or months. Now, at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California, chefs can have a similar opportunity: a yearlong culinary residency for early-career chefs to focus on the creative side of their jobs, far from the pressure and heat of a commercial kitchen.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviews Jessie Benthien, the current Montalvo chef in residence, and visits the little cottage she lives in not far from the wisteria-covered commons building where she cooks. It’s not all play for the culinary intern: She tends a small garden, teaches an occasional class to second-graders, and prepares dinner for the other artists in residence five nights a week. But, as the article points out, she takes walks in the morning and naps in the afternoon and spends her time reading cookbooks and getting to know the local food producers. It’s a far cry from the intensity of the line.

But what keeps Benthien awake during the time she planned to be napping? A fierce debate over farro versus quinoa. It’s a less stressful life, but food is still very much on the brain.

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