Not all culinary schools are created equal, and the Institute of Domestic Technology is living proof. It’s not just about the technique or the recipes but about the food itself; director Joseph Schuldiner is perhaps at the heart of this attitude towards gastronomy and everything that surrounds it.
Schuldiner has always been interested in food. ”When I was a boy I made my parents purchase me a hand-cranked wheat grinder so I could see how flour was made,” he says. “I made yogurt, fruit leather and herbal infusions while I was in high school.” And all of these interests have culminated in the school’s vast selection of programs. From bacon curing to home coffee roasting, the approach of curiosity with regards to food permeates everything they do.
Schuldiner’s favorite class is the Saving the Season workshop, offered regularly. “We get to explore a single fruit and all the ways to preserve and prepare it.”
“I also love the totally obscure classes that find a ravenous group of students to sign up, such as the annual Nocino Festival or even the mustard making modules in Foodcrafting 101 where people have Googled the word mustard to find the class. The more food-geeky the better!”
The Road to Success
While food has always been a passion of his, the development of the institute was the culmination of many years of work and interest. After years of creative work, Schuldiner’s love of food was revived with his involvement in community activism. “This began in 2010 by becoming involved with with a budding food co-op in Altadena, CA (a suburb of Los Angeles),” he says. “There I met a couple living in the historic markered Zane Grey estate and in the process of turning it into a (sub)urban homestead complete with goats.”
Together, they started an underground monthly farmers’ market, and Schuldiner began designing accompanying educational programs, a cookbook exchange, demonstrations and guest speakers. Soon, the market grew too large for its location — the couple’s front yard — and was moved into a nearby park.
Returning to Our Roots
Perhaps the clincher in realizing his interests as a professional dream has been, ironically, the economic crisis. “Food preservation and small-batch foodcrafting has been experiencing a comeback, in my opinion, since the economic collapse in 2008,” says Schuldiner. “Most of my professional friends and colleagues who lost their jobs turned to their ‘plan B’: Baking, jam-making, pickling, creating small businesses that were more rewarding than the 9-5 office work they had been involved in.”
And it is this hands-on approach that makes the institute so different. “People are fascinated by ingredients and health, as well as taste and experience,” says Schuldiner. “Purchasing store-bought products buys into what corporations want us to think of ourselves. Making our own products from ingredients sourced by hand allow us to identify who we are as individuals.” If the institute can help people further this goal, it’s earned its place in Los Angeles’ foodie community.