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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