Tim Kolanko: Cultivating the Future in Culinary Culture
If you live, and eat, in San Diego, you probably know that Liberty Public Market (LPM) in Point Loma has an alluring array of artisan foods ranging from brawny lobster rolls to delicate farm-fresh salads. But did you know that it also houses Mess Hall, an upscale, innovative restaurant that sources 100% of its produce from local organic farms? Helmed by Blue Bridge Executive Chef Tim Kolanko and Chef de Cuisine Colin Murray, Mess Hall is doing something else unique—offering an in-house culinary education program to its employees.
“The program is still in its infancy. We’ve only done the first two classes on cheese and butchery, but we hope to knock out four more by the end of the year,” says Kolanko. Inspired by Venissimo Cheese’s educational program (another LPM vendor), Kolanko decided to offer something similar to the employees of Blue Bridge’s six restaurants, including Mess Hall.
Here’s how it works: Cooks, along with some front of house employees, attend a class to learn basic cooking techniques. Kolanko says most of the cooks were eager to attend the classes since many had to learn on the job and never had an opportunity to attend culinary school.
“Many cooks feel like robots at a station, doing one thing over and over,” says Kolanko, “the classes are a way of giving back to them.” It also benefits the chefs: “When you teach something, you need to be able to explain it, so it’s good for us chefs too,” adds Kolanko.
Future classes will cover areas ranging from bread baking to fermentation. “So far, the cooks have really loved it,” says Kolanko. “By offering these classes, it shows that we are invested in their growth.”
Moving forward, Kolanko and his chefs intend to formalize the program, eventually offering the curriculum in an online format, and to start a series of culinary classes for the public. For now, however, he’s focusing on getting the program up and running. Manning their restaurants that are open seven days a week and hosting numerous culinary events, it’s a logistical challenge to schedule classes that cooks and chefs can attend.
Ultimately, it’s worth the effort. “It’s really about culture-building,” says Kolanko. “That’s my goal. Building a culinary culture for the whole company that trickles into all of our restaurants.”
Unique and Local Holiday Meals
This Thanksgiving season, Mess Hall will be serving as a turkey pickup location for Stehly Farms. Customers can order their turkeys from Stehly Farms Organic and pick them up onsite. Mess Hall will also be offering a selection of side dishes and desserts to order and pick up. For more information, please call Mess Hall at (619) 255-8360
Tim has graciously shared two of his favorite holiday side dishes here, as a way to bring more local, unique flavors to your holiday table.