Farming for Health Podcast #8: Chef Jeremy Umansky

Farming for Health Podcast #8: Chef Jeremy Umansky

Chef Jeremy is the owner of Larder: A Curated Delicatessen & Bakery located in Cleveland, Ohio. The restaurant, in 2019, received a James Beard Foundation nomination for the Best New Restaurant in America—and, that same year, Food & Wine/Makers Issue declared Chef Jeremy to be “The Deli Prophet.”

Not surprisingly, Chef Jeremy has appeared in numerous publications, including Bon Appetit and Saveur, and he co-authored a book titled Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation with Rich Shih.

So, Dr. Amy Sapola wants to know, how does one become a deli prophet?

With Jeremy, it began in his childhood when his beloved grandmother was a cook and caterer for a synagogue on the east side of Cleveland. From an early age, Jeremy was helping her with preparing a luncheon, doing dishes, and serving people. She made an amazing gefilte fish, and since—as Jeremy points out—this is a dish that’s normally not prepared well, he realized that his grandmother was a special cook, indeed. Even as a kid, he knew that his family was doing something right.

Plus, his mother always prepared amazing meals. As a charter member of Food and Wine, she would receive their annual cookbook and try out new recipes. Because his mother was an avid gardener when Jeremy was young, he learned about that, as well, and they’d pick wild plants, too.

Jeremy ultimately went to culinary school and, for seven years, he managed a forty-acre vegetable farm. He worked with chefs; learned about mushrooms from a biology professor emeritus and other experts; got involved in the slow food movement; and was mentored by a fermentation guru who taught him about production and enjoyment of fermented foods. 

By this point, Jeremy’s career path was clear—at least to him. The problem was that jobs in his chosen niche were few and far between, located in far flung places and connected to select fine dining establishments. So, the question then became: how exactly does one persuade small restaurants, often family owned, that they need a fermentation specialist and forager on their team?

Listen to the rest of his story in his own words in our Farming for Health podcast, Fungi, Bitter Foods, and Food Extinction

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