Interview: Erin Cochran on Cooking and Starting a Business

erin

Erin Cochran has been working with food since she was 14. From start-ups in Istanbul to fine dining in The Mission District, she has done some of everything. She runs C&B Bottling with her wife out of their home in San Francisco, and is in the process of starting her own restaurant / farm.


 

Ben Hanna: How did you originally get interested in food and cooking? How did that start?

Erin Cochran: I feel like I just sort of fell into it actually. My first job I got as a counter girl, that was my actual title, at a pasta restaurant that was right up the street from where we lived when I was a teenager. I was 14 and I went and told them I was 16 and got a job because I really wanted a job. I got that one specifically because that one was within walking distance of my house and I didn’t have to drive, because clearly I couldn’t. I worked the counter and took money and whatever else.

All the boys would smoke pot during the day.  If I worked the shifts when they were smoking, then they were more than happy to let me do the cooking as well so that they could just not do anything. Those were my favorite shifts by far. It was super fun to go back there and try to figure out how to make these different pasta dishes which at the time seemed very complicated with a lot of cooking involved. I realize now that they weren’t really.  Apart from a few weird jobs along the way — in New York I ran a magazine for a year because I got too burned out on cooking —  I never left because I liked it so much. And that’s how I got started. I just stuck with it.

Ben Hanna: Do you have any formal education in cooking?

Erin Cochran: I’ve had an unbelievable amount of jobs. I can’t remember them all, actually. I worked at a ton of different restaurants. During college I was going to school for hospitality management and was the kitchen manager of this brew pub. Of all my classes in hospitality management, the only ones that I really liked were the cooking classes, the food prep classes. All of the other business classes I did but I didn’t really enjoy. One day I was talking to my dad and said “This is the only thing I really like doing, I wonder if I should just go to culinary school?” He said “Maybe you should,” and then I applied and got in and quit school and moved to Vermont.

Ben Hanna: How long was culinary school? How long did that last for?

Erin Cochran: Two years. The school that I went to was New England Culinary, and they do a six months on campus, six months internship off campus. Six months on, six months off so it is a two full years, but you are only on campus for a year.

Ben Hanna: Did you focus on a specific type of food preparation or specific aspect of cooking?
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Interview: Justin Cutter of Compass Green

justin

Justin runs Compass Green — a school garden on wheels.  It is a fully functional greenhouse built in the back of an 18ft. box truck that grows vegetables, grains, and herbs and is powered by waste vegetable oil.  He travels the country teaching students. I talked with him about some of the ins and out of his business.


 

Ben Hanna: How many students are you serving a year right now?

Justin Cutter: This year, I taught 10,000 students, which is my goal since I started Compass Green – to be teaching 10,000 students with one truck per year. 

Ben Hanna: How did the idea for Compass Green kick off?

Justin Cutter: I had been working with John Jeavons, this world-famous agriculturalist, to help start a program called the Green Belt Team with the goal to train people to go to developing nations and start sustainability centers.

After doing that, I felt like I wanted to do something for agriculture in my own country. I started traveling to colleges and teaching workshops on Biointensive sustainable agriculture, which is just a kick ass system that is super productive and super sustainable.

When I was part of that I would also give this presentation on our global food situation and what our choices about food are doing to our bodies and our planet. How it can be incredibly positive, but right now we’re on a pretty bad track.

Those would be open to the public and some were very well attended. There are all people who are already interested in sustainability and I saw pretty quickly that I was falling into these traps of preaching to the choir, which is a very enjoyable thing to do but not very productive. I realized that if I’m actually going to make any difference in sustainability in the US, then I would have to reach the people who:

1) Did not have access to this kind of thing.

2) Who were also “just” interested… The people who saw a poster for a talk about food sustainability or anything with the word ‘sustainable’ in it. People who would just not want to go because it would trigger some kind of trippy tree-hugger sentiment that they didn’t want to be a part of.

Around that time, one of my old high school buddies called me with this idea to turn a truck into a greenhouse. He was thinking of going to farmer’s market and stuff like that and knew that I was in agriculture and so that’s why he brought it up to me. 

To me, I instantly felt like it was a fantastic idea but instead of using it as a way for us to have an adventure in itself and it seems like an amazing way to have an adventure and really reach people who would not, otherwise, be exposed to this kind of education and teach them about sustainability.

The truck would serve both as a vehicle to get to those places but also as a really cool interest piece that would capture the attention and imagination of the audiences, regardless whether they were already interested in gardening or sustainability or anything like that.

From there, we just ran with it. Started up in Brooklyn, New York in 2011.

Ben Hanna: You guys actually started by funding yourselves with a Kickstarter, right?

Justin Cutter: We did, yeah. Kickstarter was very crucial for us. We didn’t have any money and we weren’t interested in going into major debt to get us off the ground so we did a Kickstarter campaign and were successful in meeting our goal of $27,000. That was enough to buy the truck and retrofit it into a mobile greenhouse that can also be run off of vegetable waste vegetable oil.

Ben Hanna: How are you funded now? What’s your primary source of income?
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WorkShop Winter Clean

I generally live with a decent amount of chaos, and am not fastidious about being neat and organized in my physical life. Digitally, I like things trackable, with in reach at a thought, and where they belong. However, there is a certain satisfaction that I get from taking chaos and transforming it into order that only comes when using my hands to make it so.

This weekend we tackled “The WorkShop.” It had become a nightmare.

Ahhh!!

After a few projects left un-resolved, and the need to store my old car for our three month road trip, this place had become a glorified storage container.

No more!

  • Step 1: Sell the car. Done in 2 hours via Craigslist. Cash in hand.
  • Step 2: Clear out the stuff we don’t need. Street pile and junk garbage pick up.
  • Step 3: Have a place for all things. Working on it!

Now to just put the stuff on the tables away…

Getting there… Still more to do.

Back Home

Coming home after a 3 month / 11,000 mile road trip is somewhat of an adjustment.

No longer do I need to spend any time planning where I will be next, or how I need to get there. No longer is finding a place to camp how I end every day.

After a week of driving from 6am to 11pm every day to get across the country, I am taking time to just relax. But man, will I will miss those views…

IMG_4452

Autodidactic Learning

I have recently been asked my opinion on returning to school by a few friends. We are all in our late 20’s, and it is a transformative time. The pervasive feeling seems to be either to commit to your current career, or make a shift, now by going back to school for some more education. (Personally, I plan to shift my career and focus every five years or so until I die.)

Going back to school for a PhD, Masters, or other degree or certificate can be a good choice, but in this day and age where you can learn anything online, showing what you know is often better than a degree.

My alternate approach to learning started early. High School always frustrated me. I felt that it was using an outdated model which placed in inordinate value on my ability to memorize and repeat random facts. Learning was not spontaneous. Most teachers would not follow an idea deep and emerge somewhere unexpected. They followed the lessons.

I used to spend long hours at home in our basement “playing around” on the family computer. I had discovered that I could learn real skills and applicable knowledge online. I taught myself how to code HTML and CSS, how to use Photoshop, After Effects, 3D design programs and video editors. My brother and I filmed sci fi battles where we rotoscoped lightsabers in place of brooms, shot electric fireballs across rooms and played with slow motion.

My junior year I joined the yearbook staff, and taught myself pagemaker / indesign. We decided to do an additional digital yearbook that year, and it fell to me and and a classmate to put it all together. For the first time I started learning to project manage and juggle operations tasks.

I got into film photography, and convinced a family friend to pay me to photograph a birthday party. I learned by trial and error again how to best compose, develop and sell photos. These trials led to a job doing product photography and web design for a pre-Etsy custom parasol designer. (Prissy Parasols!)

Recently, I wanted to get into woodworking. I spend most my time on a computer, and I wanted to build things with my hands. Things that don’t disappear when the battery dies or the power goes out. Things that might outlive me.

I joined a free furniture building class at the San Francisco Community college. It was initially great, and provided access to tools, and an instructor who was knowledgable. Unfortunately, the class was large, several people were slow learners, and I couldn’t move at my own speed.

I ended up spending $1,000 on wood-shop tools via Craigslist, and through trial and error, Youtube videos, and immersion I taught myself basic furniture building. I now know other woodworkers who I can learn from, and have work to show for my time.

Arguably, I learned more from these attempts that I ever could in school. True learning follows passion, which can only develop from experimentation and immersion.

Cafe Culture

The social role of cafes in 2013 – 2014

I went to a cafe this morning to get some work done and change up my work environment. It always helps me zone in and focus. I am able to set an “Until my battery dies, I will work on this one project” time frame.

Today, the world had other plans. I got to the cafe, ordered food, got my coffee sat down, and… no internet. Hmm. Went to the counter and asked about it.

Yeah, it is down. We have a guy coming this afternoon to fix it.

I personally was upset, because I had just paid for food at this place expecting to stay their for the morning and work.

This brings up the question “What is the primary purpose of a cafe in 2013–2014?” I was planning on using it for internet and to work. Others were there for food and socializing. Most people had laptops out. What is the primary use of the “Third Space?”

As an experiment, I pulled out a sharpie from my bag, and clandestinely hung an “Internet is down :( ” sign from the door. As I watched from the window while I ate my food, I saw person after person frown and turn away — headed to more internet rich pastures. In fact, of those who saw the sign not a one entered the cafe.

How often do you go to cafes alone for a meal vs to work?

5 Tools to Optimize your Web Design Workflow

The toolbox you have for creating websites affects the projects you work on and how you approach them. If it is hard to do something you will do it less often, which means you may take the easy way out. These are some of the tools I use that will help you optimize your web design workflow.

CodeKit – you want this, it makes your images smaller, automatically injects CSS changes to your page from Sublime Text so you can code live, and will compile SASS or LESS to CSS automatically if you ever start using either of those CSS languages. (Use SASS, it is better, and has more support in the professional community)

Chrome’s Developer tools are going to be your best friend. Built-in to Chrome, they let you test everything for problems, design in the browser, and will let you learn how to code better than any other tool. Simply right click on any part of a web page anywhere, select “Inspect Element” and it will show you where the element was created in the code, the css that styles it, and allow you to edit it.

STFP – this is a plugin for Sublime Text that allows you to upload via FTP from within Sublime, and sync local and remote version of your website. Saves having to use Cyberduck for most things.

Emmet – This is a shorthand system for creating large amounts of HTML quickly. Learn the basics first, but once you understand what you are doing, graduate quickly to this style of writing HTML. It allows you to plan the skeleton of your site rapidly, and fill in from the in side out. There is a plugin for Sublime Text.

Adobe Fireworks – A big one – this tool is perfectly set up for web design. It has object based layers, will show you the CSS that is needed to make the designs you create, and it allows you to make clickable mockups.

That should be enough to fill your weekend ;)

Wool – The Silo Saga

Wool is one of the best science fiction stories I have read in recent years. If you like dystopian futures, this series is made for you. Part of a set, this Wool Omnibus is books 1-5. There are prequel and sequel sets as well, but starting with this set works best.

It is written by Hugh Howey, and was a breakthrough success. He was originally planning to write one, but his fan insisted, and he followed up with the whole series.

  • Number 1 Bestseller on Amazon
  • Winner of Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book of 2012 Award

PopSci turns off comments because they are “bad for science”

PopSciPopular Science has made the choice to turn off comments because they can be “bad for science.”

Comments are a common problem on the internet, and they tend to trend towards the lowest common denominator. Youtube is known for its miserable comments, and Google has recently been addressing this by incorporating Google+ moderation into it’s youtube commenting system.

While debate is an important part of a community, it seems that until there is a way to make sure that they don’t degenerate into meaningless arguments, they will be more and more moderated.

$1 Oysters in San Francisco and the East Bay

 

$1 Oysters in San Francisco and the East Bay

I love raw oysters on the half shell. I grew up eating gulf coast oysters by the bucket full with my grandfather, and have loved them ever since. They can be expensive, but they don’t have to be!

I put together this list of where to get $1 oysters in San Francisco and the East Bay no matter what night of the week it is – I hope it is helpful.

Enjoy!

East Bay

San Francisco

Monday

  • Luka’s Taproom & Lounge

    2221 Broadway
    (between Franklin St & Grand Ave)Oakland, CA 94612

    (510) 451-4677

  • Marica Restaurant ($1.50 oysters)5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Hog & Rocks (5:00-6:30)

    3431 19th St
    (between San Carlos St & Mission St)San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Boxing Room (11:30-4:30)

    399 GROVE ST @ GOUGH
    San Francisco, CA 94102415-430-6590
  • Mission Rock Resort (3:00 – 7:00)

    817 Terry Francois Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94158415-701-7625

Tuesday

  • The Rockin’ Crawfish
    211 Foothill Blvd
    (between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94606

  • Marica Restaurant5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Cafe Rouge ($1.25 every day, $1.00 sundays)

    1782 4th St
    (between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 525-1440
  • Hog & Rocks (5:00-6:30)

    3431 19th St
    (between San Carlos St & Mission St)San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Woodhouse Fish Company

    2073 Market St
    (between 14th St & Reservoir St)San Francisco, CA 94114

    (415) 437-2722

  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Bar Crudo (5:00-6:30)

    655 Divisadero St
    (between Grove St & Hayes St)San Francisco, CA 94117

    (415) 409-0679

  • Boxing Room (11:30-4:30)

    399 GROVE ST @ GOUGH
    San Francisco, CA 94102415-430-6590
  • Mission Rock Resort (3:00 – 7:00)

    817 Terry Francois Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94158415-701-7625

Wednesday

  • The Rockin’ Crawfish
    211 Foothill Blvd
    (between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94606

  • Marc 49

    4915 Telegraph Ave
    (between 51st St & 49th St)Oakland, CA 94609

    (510) 652-2100

  • Marica Restaurant5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Cafe Rouge ($1.25 every day, $1.00 sundays)

    1782 4th St
    (between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 525-1440
  • Hog & Rocks (5:00-6:30)

    3431 19th St
    (between San Carlos St & Mission St)San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Bar Crudo (5:00-6:30)

    655 Divisadero St
    (between Grove St & Hayes St)San Francisco, CA 94117

    (415) 409-0679

  • Boxing Room (11:30-4:30)

    399 GROVE ST @ GOUGH
    San Francisco, CA 94102415-430-6590
  • Mission Rock Resort (3:00 – 7:00)

    817 Terry Francois Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94158415-701-7625

Thursday

  • Marica Restaurant5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Cafe Rouge ($1.25 every day, $1.00 sundays)

    1782 4th St
    (between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 525-1440
  • Hog & Rocks (5:00-6:30)

    3431 19th St
    (between San Carlos St & Mission St)San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Bar Crudo (5:00-6:30)

    655 Divisadero St
    (between Grove St & Hayes St)San Francisco, CA 94117

    (415) 409-0679

  • Boxing Room (11:30-4:30)

    399 GROVE ST @ GOUGH
    San Francisco, CA 94102415-430-6590
  • Mission Rock Resort (3:00 – 7:00)

    817 Terry Francois Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94158415-701-7625

Friday

  • Marica Restaurant5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Cafe Rouge ($1.25 every day, $1.00 sundays)

    1782 4th St
    (between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 525-1440
  • Hog & Rocks (5:00-6:30)

    3431 19th St
    (between San Carlos St & Mission St)San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Bar Crudo (5:00-6:30)

    655 Divisadero St
    (between Grove St & Hayes St)San Francisco, CA 94117

    (415) 409-0679

  • Boxing Room (11:30-4:30)

    399 GROVE ST @ GOUGH
    San Francisco, CA 94102415-430-6590
  • Mission Rock Resort (3:00 – 7:00)

    817 Terry Francois Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94158415-701-7625

Saturday

  • Marica Restaurant5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Cafe Rouge ($1.25 every day, $1.00 sundays)

    1782 4th St
    (between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 525-1440
  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Bar Crudo (5:00-6:30)

    655 Divisadero St
    (between Grove St & Hayes St)San Francisco, CA 94117

    (415) 409-0679

Sunday

  • Marica Restaurant5301 College Ave(between Hudson St & Manila Ave)

    Oakland, CA 94618

    (510) 985-8388

  • Cafe Rouge

    1782 4th St
    (between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 525-1440
  • Mayes Oyster House

    1233 Polk St
    (between Bush St & Fern St)San Francisco, CA 94109

    (415) 885-1233

  • Hyde Street Seafood House and Raw Bar

    1509 Hyde St
    (at Jackson St)San Francisco, CA 94109

    (415) 931-3474

  • Waterbar (11:30-5:30)

    399 The Embarcadero S
    San Francisco, CA 94105(415) 284-9922
  • Bar Crudo (5:00-6:30)

    655 Divisadero St
    (between Grove St & Hayes St)San Francisco, CA 94117

    (415) 409-0679

If you know of anywhere else to get $1 oysters in San Francisco and the East Bay, please let me know and I will update this list!