Aura Whitman has a ardour for cooking. She’s been doing it professionally, everywhere in the world, for nearly 30 years | Enterprise


portrait of aura whitman

Aura Whitman, chef and part-owner at Berkshire Mountain Bakery, has been cooking for nearly 30 years. Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

PITTSFIELD — Cooking is enjoyable, however doing it professionally as a chef will be as troublesome as it’s rewarding.

Lengthy days, engaged on weekends, working a kitchen, tons of duty; generally the work is about every thing however the cooking.

Aura Whitman believes cooks want a specific amount of ardour to do the job effectively, and she or he ought to know. An element-owner of Berkshire Mountain Bakery, who owned the previous Cafe Reva in Pittsfield for 11 years, Whitman has labored at a number of different Berkshire institutions and runs her personal catering enterprise. She’s been within the career for nearly 30 years.

Her ardour for cooking has additionally taken her to Israel, the Le Cordon Bleu cooking college in Paris, which she attended for one yr, and to the Culinary Institute of America, from which she graduated. In Paris, Whitman met Julia Youngster and cooked for her on the famous chef’s 83rd birthday in 1995. 

We spoke to the Cheshire resident about her craft, what it was wish to prepare dinner for Julia Youngster, and why she remains to be so keen about what she does.

chef cooking on kitchen grill

Chef Aura Whitman cooks on the grill at Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Pittsfield. Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

Q: What led you to turn into a chef?

A: Sort of from early on I all the time appreciated cooking. I adopted my mother across the kitchen. My mother sadly fell unwell and I wound up cooking for my three youthful siblings. I used to be sort of good at it. In order that sort of gave me confidence. They had been my first prospects.

Q: What do you get pleasure from about cooking? 

A: I actually like the way in which it brings folks collectively. Talking personally from doing it at dwelling I all the time love the way it brings folks collectively for birthdays and holidays and speaking about your day over meals and all of that. To change gears and do it on an expert stage it is sort of the identical factor. You construct these relationships along with your prospects that observe you thru. I simply received a supply from a man who when he was 5 years previous used to return into Cafe Reva for pancakes.

Q: How lengthy have you ever been a chef?

A: I would not name myself a chef the primary 10 years that I used to be within the enterprise. I believe after 10 years within the enterprise and working a few my very own kitchens I gave myself the title of chef. It is a title that individuals use somewhat loosely, and I believe that it is one thing you do must earn. All cooks can prepare dinner, however not all cooks are cooks. I believe that is truthful to say as a result of generally the meals is like nearly the very last thing you get to do, ? Like I am going to have a day deliberate out … and then you definitely get up to somebody not coming in otherwise you are available in and for some cause the water pipe burst. As soon as in awhile your day goes prefer it’s deliberate.

Q: How did you find yourself attending Le Cordon Bleu? 

A: I labored abroad in Israel for whereas after graduating from the Culinary Institute [of America]. It had all the time been a dream of mine to go and dwell in Paris, however I needed to have one thing to do there, as a result of they do not simply allow you to go there and bum round. You may do a Euro cross and journey by way of Europe however I simply sort of needed to immerse myself within the tradition, simply sort of really feel what it is wish to be an American in Paris. I felt that on this college it will be believable for me to return and try this. Culinary-wise it was a dream come true. I traveled so much after I was over there and discovered and noticed issues that I might have by no means skilled right here within the states, and it is given me a higher appreciation of every thing.

Q: What did you study throughout your yr in France? 

A: The French are so stringent on simply the bottom of cooking. They train you all the cuts, and the practicals and the shares and the mom sauces, actually the significance of a base factor. From that you’ve got many derivatives. From that side generally I am going to make dough and I could make 4 of 5 issues out of it. That sort of factor is what I discovered from being in France. … Utilization, getting probably the most out of a product. And in addition, simply being so respectful of the meals. They’re very respectful of the meals.

Q: Why did you go to the Culinary Institute?

A: I had completed highschool and I had the chance to go there with a discount of value. That is not why I ended up going nevertheless it made it somewhat bit simpler to say sure to. It was wonderful. … Le Cordon Bleu was strictly delicacies whereas on the Culinary Institute you did not truly even go right into a kitchen for months. You had been studying about wine and methods to run a restaurant. They had been actually educating you to be extra effectively rounded.

Q: What did you are taking from these two faculties that you’ve got utilized in your profession?

aura whitman in kitchen

Chef Aura Whitman within the kitchen of Berkshire Mountain Bakery on Elm Road in Pittsfield. Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

A: So many alternative issues. I might most likely take a look at one thing that I’ve by no means cooked however as a result of I do know what its make-up is I might know methods to prepare dinner it. It is given me such an excellent rounded expertise, actually, as a result of I do know so much about somewhat and somewhat about so much. I might go into any restaurant and do any of the positions. That proper there, that is the definition of a chef. You may go right into a cooking enterprise of any sort and in a day or two have the ability to run the present since you’re doing every thing.

Q: How did you meet and get to work with Julia Youngster?

A: I used to be in Paris. It was her 83rd birthday. A chef requested me if I wish to volunteer to prepare dinner for Julia Youngster after which I might get to be on TV on Good Morning America, which might be filmed in France the subsequent morning. I simply checked out him and stated is {that a} trick query? So we cooked for her birthday celebration. All of us received to satisfy her and get our photos taken along with her. She was such a gracious girl, actually. Smiling and laughing and simply glad to be standing in Le Cordon Bleu.

She has additionally been an inspiration, coming full circle, as a result of I used to look at her present, too, after I was a lot youthful, on PBS. I simply cherished that she was OK with simply dropping one thing on the ground and simply dusting it up. Not that I try this or something, nevertheless it was simply so pure. You already know that for those who’re cooking a steak at dwelling and drop it on the ground you most likely would not throw it within the rubbish. She simply let that that was OK. That is one other factor that it’s important to be as a chef. You need to improvise. Typically whenever you’re out of one thing it’s important to use this or that. 

Q: Cafe Reva, which featured gourmet-caliber meals in a diner-style environment,  was a very talked-about spot. You needed to shut in 2013 as a result of your landlord would not assist pay to deliver the restaurant’s gear as much as code. Do you assume you will ever open one other Cafe Reva sometime?

chef makes sandwich in commercial kitchen

Chef Aura Whitman prepares a sandwich just lately at Berkshire Mountain Bakery on Elm Road in Pittsfield. Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

A: I get requested that so much. The time that I ran Cafe Reva was such a particular time — it actually, actually was. Little previous banged up cafe on Tyler Road, proper?  I am going to always remember it. However I believe that was that point, and now might be different issues. One thing actually loopy must occur for me to try this.

Q: What recommendation would you give to somebody who needed to be a chef?

A: In case your ardour for meals is what drives you, then I might extremely advocate being a chef and pursuing that dream. However perceive additionally that whenever you’re doing that you just’re working weekends, lengthy hours, nights, lacking folks’s birthdays. There’s that facet of that. In my 20s and 30s, I did miss some issues.

Should you’re contemplating being a chef it’s important to have a tricky pores and skin, perserverance and keenness, in no matter order you wish to choose.   


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