CHEF JOHN VOLLERTSEN
Our hostess of Cooking in the Lite, Brit Elders, invited John Vollertsen, one of my favorite chef’s, to join her on the premiere radio broadcast. John shared, among other tasty treats, the most scrumptious low carb, no sugar, low fat, recipe for the cake he baked for me on my birthday.
Our first Cooking in the Lite sponsor is Organic Excellence. Their products are 100% biodegradable.
John was born in suburban Rochester, New York, in 1955, John grew up in an era when most meals he remembers from his youth, started with some sort of canned Campbells soup. After graduating from Cobleskill College in 1975 with a degree in restaurant management, John headed to New York City to pursue his real lifetime dream, to become an actor. There he joined the legions of other struggling would-be actors, not on the stages of New York’s theaters, but slinging hash in some of the Big Apples hottest restaurants. Very early on it occurred to John that rather than be an out-of-work actor who had to work in a restaurant while waiting to be discovered, he could claim the restaurant business as his chosen profession, (and wait to be discovered).
Alas Broadway never called, but a very interesting journey within the food world pushed the promise of bright lights and fame into the background. After 8 years working in a variety of popular and famous NYC restaurants, including Soho's "Greenstreet", Tribeca's "Odeon" and Larry Forgione's milestone "An American Place," John headed ‘Down Under. Hired by a Sydney company in 1985, to open an American-Style Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, this project lead to what became a chain of 6 Southwest flavored restaurants called the "Arizona Bar and Grill".
In between training the cooks in the subleties of chiles and teaching the waiting staff how to line dance to "Achy Breaky Heart," John was responsible for developing and promoting the Arizona theme.
In researching the Arizona concept, John visited Santa Fe numerous times and immediately knew he would someday settle there. After completing one more Arizona location, in Wellington, New Zealand, John, in 1993, moved to Santa Fe. It was not an immediate fit!
After a few fits and starts, and three more extended stays back in Sydney, John's career in New Mexico finally started to blossom. A one year stint in 1998 as Cooking School Director for The Jane Butel Cooking School in Albuquerque, lead to John's appreciation of and knowledge of the unique place food holds in the history and culture of New Mexico.
This awareness blossomed to a side-career as featured writer for La Cocinita, a statewide monthly magazine with a 30,000 readership. From early 1999, John's specialty has been interviewing local chef's and celebrities and unearthing ideas and thoughts they each have on how the food world has impacted their own lives. John also covers the gossip and food scene in his monthly "Santa Fe Scoop" column.
At the same time, he launched a successful cooking school in The Las Cosas Cooking Shop. The year-around roster of eclectic cooking topics includes guest chef classes and topics ranging from the obvious New Mexican Cookery to the exotic foods of East Africa. John also teaches and guest chef’s at the beautiful Vista Clara Spa and Resort in Galisteo, New Mexico. He also has conducted private cooking classes for high-profile local residents, including me, and has hosted classes that have featured actress Marsha Mason and singer Chris Calloway, daughter of Cab Calloway.
Last year John consulted on the opening of the Taos School of Cooking, located in the Yache Learning Center in downtown Taos. All proceeds from the cooking school benefit scholarships for local students to attend the progressive school.
As an observer and commentator on the diverse culinary adventure his career has led him on, he continues to explore the wonderful world of food and shares that adventure with his students and readers. He marvels daily on how much good food there is out beyond the horizon and past the memories of his youth in Campbell Soup country.