Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Culinization of Megan Soto

Nothing inspires more trepidation in me than word combinations like braised arugula, caramelized onions and pan-seared scallops.  I’m a terrible grocery shopper, and in the four months since moving into my apartment, I’ve had to crack the window to clear my smoky kitchen about as many times as I’ve had to take out the recycling.

Immersion in San Francisco’s foodie culture and a gaggle of gourmet friends did nothing to build my confidence, or, frankly, capture my interest. It’s not that I don’t appreciate that some foods taste better or are better quality than others, I get that. And I’ll own up to some epicurean stirring in my heart when I watch Julie and Julia and Ratatouille.

Let’s just say that there is no farmers market magic for a girl who grew up in rural Oregon where there were fresh produce stands, rampant wild raspberries, and orchards lining every road. And honestly, ‘cooking for one’ for the last two-and-a-half  years always dampened those small sparks of inspiration.

But that’s a dish for another meal.

You can see why, then, it was such a “Wait, what?” moment for a few of my friends when we discussed my new career direction while they unloaded a massive, perfectly browned roast from the oven or whipped up fresh pesto in (what I’ve since learned is) a food processor. …  Just let that sink in.

The transition from tech PR to food PR seems about as stark a difference as you can get. Buzz words suddenly change from innovation, NextGen, solution, etc. to organic, grass-fed, GMO/hormone free, artisan, etc.

My resolve to acquaint myself with what so many of my friends have touted for years — the ability to cook — crystallized a few weeks ago with an article that was circulating our office here at Maxwell. When I read Josh Ozersky’s write-up on Portland in Time , which name-dropped such hallowed haunts as Beast and Bunk, I decided I have a rare opportunity to bolster research for my industry AND sharpen (er, learn) a skill in tandem. The following grounded that resolve:

  • I finally watched Food, Inc. which led me to promptly join my local food co-op.
  • I now have a fridge, oven and shelves that are completely my own, untainted by house-mates (and their ever-judging eyes), with which to furnish and cook ingredients, ingredients, ingredients.
  • The more I learn about my clients’ products, the more I want to give my body the wholesome and healthy — and learn to do it myself.

In truth, I feel a little cliché saying “I moved to Portland and now I’m into food!” But denying it would be nonsensical since it doesn’t so much make me a bandwagon foodie, but rather someone who can transition into a new industry, right?

Here’s the thing, maybe it’s not that new.

While SF offers an array of authentic ethnic and local food options, Portland is quickly solidifying its reputation as hub for innovative food solutions for the NextGen of American Epicureans — innovation that happens on the street, in restaurant kitchens, on our rural and urban farms. Innovation and shifts and trends that spring out of and  yet, pour into, an industry that’s constantly churning with novelty and development. When you look at it that way, you can’t tell that I left tech PR (or Silicon Valley) at all.

But I did. And that flag is staked, the culinization has begun.