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Chef Spotlight: Lindsey Payne of Lindsey’s Culinary Market

lindsay_payneLindsey Payne is the owner and head chef of Lindsey’s Culinary Market in Athens. She has been involved as a chef in the Habersham County Farm to School program, helping with taste tests and training cafeteria staff, and recently we got to hear more of her story.

How did you get into cooking?
I have always loved to cook. I wrote an “autobiography” in 5th grade and included recipes in it for Jello molds and cakes that I loved to make. Finally after 20 years working in health care I decided I wanted to go to culinary school and make a new career for the remainder of my life. I tell people all the time how everyone is so much happier to see me with food and beverages than they ever were with needles and medicine. The best time of my life was when I was in culinary school in Charleston, S.C.

Why did you decide to help out with Farm to School?
My good friend Teri Hamlin, the northeast Georgia Farm to School coordinator, told me about it and asked for my assistance. I had worked at a restaurant on a vineyard before where we had our own kitchen garden. Guests to the winery would tour our gardens while waiting on a table. I was always so amazed that so many people had never seen vegetables growing. They had only seen them in the grocery store. It made me believe that not knowing where the food you ate came from equaled not having an adventuresome palette. What a travesty! In this day of kids meals and chicken nuggets, children are not being exposed to so many culinary delights. There’s nothing that compares to a tomato or ear of corn fresh from the garden!

What’s your favorite part about participating in Farm to School?
It’s hilarious to see the kids’ reactions to the vegetables. Some turn their noses up and act like there is no way they would eat such a thing – that drives me crazy! Some will try it and really like it and they can’t believe they did. Then of course there are those that come back for more! The hard thing for me is trying to come up with ways to serve the vegetables so the kids will find it appealing. But that is what I strive to do every day in my restaurant/catering business as well!

Why local food?
My brother and his family have a farm and I’ve seen how hard it is to produce quality goods to sell. They are farming sustainably to try and protect the land and the food.
Why should schools have Farm to School programs?
I think it is important for our future for students to learn about how food is produced and what they’re putting in their body. They should learn there are options and how they can be affected by them. Knowledge is power. Also, cooking and eating is just fun – it’s a part of life!

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