Heritage and chemistry shape Patricia
Davis’ culinary classes in Ben Lomond
Photography by Patrice Ward
Long days spent picking beans on her great-grandparents’ 400-acre farm in Montague, New Jersey was where it all began for the woman voted 2016 Best Food Artisan by Edible Monterey Bay’s readers. That may seem like a long way from Patricia Davis’ current home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but the Garden State family farm is where her deep passion for food, farming, preserving and cooking was first sparked.
Fast forward through a career as a chemical engineer, launching satellites from Palo Alto up until 2011, and we now find Davis and her husband Bryn atop a hillside in Ben Lomond, where they operate a cooking school, Quail Hollow Kitchens.
Classes are held right on the couple’s 26-acre property, and anyone lucky enough to spend some time there will upon arrival get to know a bevy of poultry, including several ducks, some Black Copper Maran chickens and a turkey—creatures that Davis admits are more of a hobby than a business, but do provide eggs richly hued in greens and deep chocolate browns for her cooking.
Quail Hollow’s class schedule is something of a food map of Davis’ life, and the first thing you will learn about her is that family and heritage are paramount.
Relics of her family tree are all over her house, lining her cookbook shelves and in her kitchen cupboards. Photo albums depict generations together, and the ladies who passed down the food literacy Davis is proud to own.
Davis likes to say, “Food is this communion with family and friends,” which is why her classes are very much designed for the home cook.
Upcoming sessions will focus on Hungarian egg noodles (one of Davis’ specialties), molecular gastronomy (Davis is a self-described geek who is “very gadgety”), pastries and chocolate tempering. She may also add olive oil tasting, and would eventually like to offer classes with guest chef-instructors from around the world.
With so many wonderful class offerings in our community, like down the road at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply, she doesn’t want to “step on any toes” by repeating themes like pickling and cheese making that would otherwise be part of her repertoire.
“I formulate each class based on my skill set,” she explains, and when that skill set happens to involve learning to cook from a great-grandmother who was the chef for the prince of Hungary and a professional background in chemistry, the classes are far from boring or basic.
Instead of standing around just watching, her students will find things to touch, explore, investigate, discuss.
“I like sharing novel things that people haven’t experienced,” she says, referring to the unique tidbits she assembles for each class, like the homemade Egyptian Dukkah spice mix or the hard-to-find olive oil. “Plus they all get to feast!”
Runners up: 2nd place, Friend in Cheeses Jam Co. and 3rd place, tie: Happy Girl Kitchen Co. and The Penny Ice Creamery
Amber Turpin is a freelance food and travel writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Quail Hollow Kitchens
Ben Lomond • 831.609.6226
Amber Turpin is a food writer and baker who homesteads in Ben Lomond.