Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Intern Blog - A New Perspective (by Courtney McDonald)

Coming from the very fast-paced, isolated world of the professional chef, I am enjoying each day of being an intern at Flying Mule Farm. One of my responsibilities as an intern has been to help work the Auburn Farmers Markets on Saturdays. Being on the “other side” of the market stall has certainly broadened my perspective. As chefs, we are separated from most direct contact with our customers. They are a faceless group. It is only every once in a while that someone might peek their head into the kitchen to yell a compliment (or complaint) over the noise of the dishwasher. This is, most of the time, as much as we connect with them. Not because we like it this way, but because it tends to be the nature of the restaurant business.

Being at the market has been a wonderful opportunity to have real dialog with customers. Most of the time they are loyal followers of Flying Mule Farm products who come to the market every week to buy lamb or goat. Sometimes they are customers from the restaurant who were excited to see local farms featured on the restaurant menu and want to tell us about it. Many times these are the same people.

I have never considered myself to be a “people person” (and many people I know would agree with that), but the community spirit of the farmers market is infectious. Besides that, I have experience with the product I am helping represent and I know it is fantastic! I now realize that being a “people person” is a subjective term. I thoroughly enjoy seeing all of the different people who patronize the farmers market, people from all walks of life, who share a common love of seasonal food from local producers…and I like talking to them.

Another thing that I have been struck by while working at the farmers market has been the community spirit between the vendors themselves. Because the Auburn Farmers Market offers such a variety of products for sale, it can truly be a one-stop shopping trip. When customers ask for a recipe to go with the lamb or goat they have just purchased, Dan invariably suggests using local ingredients found at the market. I have heard many of his peers do the same. This kind of camaraderie is inspiring. I look forward to the inspiration that will come each Saturday.

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