from “Edible Capital District” September 2016 issue; by Maria Buteux Reade, photography by Liz Lajeunesse – A baguette changed JoAnne Cloughly’s life. “My Aunt Jeanette took me under her wing when I was a teenager and taught me how to bake French bread. That focused my life. She was my Alice Waters or Julia Child. Everything she did was so beautiful, like pulling stupendous flavors out of a simple salad.”
A certified executive pastry chef, Cloughly now serves as chair of SUNY Cobleskill’s Agricultural Business and Food Management program. Cloughly and I met on campus over freshly baked apple cake and coffee, and she shared her insights as Cobleskill wraps up its centennial year. In one afternoon visit, it became apparent that the college truly lives up to its motto, “Real Life. Real Learning.” These kids are dedicated. Just like their enthusiastic leader.
Edible Capital District: What distinguishes SUNY Cobleskill from other culinary programs?
JoAnne Cloughly: It’s the crossover among programs. Under the umbrella of the Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, established in 2014, ag students learn about cooking, and culinary kids see how food is being grown. Before, ag students would learn how to process and cut meat. Now, one of our culinary instructors co-teaches in the meat lab, and he brings the ag students to the kitchen and shows them how to properly season and cook the various cuts. They discuss taste and texture so they’re learning the whole spectrum.
I want our students to learn how the quality of ingredients affects the preparation and final product. Food isn’t delivered to our kitchens in frozen packages or on Styrofoam trays. It comes from the pastures and gardens across the road. And those same high-quality homegrown ingredients are prepared by culinary students, served in the campus restaurant and consumed—gratefully—by their peers and guests.