Aquarium chef forges friendships and
spreads sustainability at a Tres Pinos
farm and around the world
Chef Matt Beaudin of the Monterey Bay Aquarium
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA PARGH
For the past few months, Matt Beaudin has been playing a guessing game called “Are They or Aren’t They?”
Beaudin, executive chef for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has been trying to figure out if his three female sheep—shy, shaggy, prehistoriclooking creatures called Jacob sheep, thought to be the first domesticated breed—are pregnant.
It’s not an easy task, in part because of their built-in weapons—female as well as male Jacob sheep can have as many as six horns instead of the usual two, and they’re not afraid to use them. “ey are wicked skittish, and the trick is to get hold of them without getting gored,” says Beaudin.
And why, you may ask, is a chef going to so much trouble to raise a few weird sheep? It’s because Beaudin wants to get down to basics when it comes to locally sourcing food, supporting small farmers and doing good for the world.
His sheep project began after discovering Evergreen Acres Dairy products last year—raw organic goat milk, feta cheese and organic duck eggs, which are used in aquarium menu items—and struck up a friendship with owners Mike and Jane Hulme. (See related story p. 39.)
Now Beaudin is making monthly treks out to the farm in the hinterlands of San Benito County to tend to his sheep and help out the Hulmes when he can, even butchering a pig there in December.
“I want to offer something that you can’t get anywhere else,” says the energetic 33-year-old chef, who plans to make sheep’s milk ice cream, something that is easier for lactose-intolerant folks to enjoy. “This is a labor of love.”
Beaudin, raised on a New Hampshire farm, is no stranger to caring for livestock or making do when the occasion calls for it. His creative skill set has served him well in chef positions around the world, including the West Indies, Hong Kong and other far-flung places, as well as five-star U.S. restaurants.
During one stint on a tiny island in the Eastern Caribbean, Beaudin helped start an organic farm and farm-to-table restaurant at the exclusive Lighthouse Bay Resort. But it was not until he was cooking at a jungle camp in Rwanda that he gained a true appreciation for sourcing his ingredients, since even preparing a simple dish like French toast required him baking the bread himself the night before, and seeking out eggs and milk from neighboring villages.
It was while he was in Rwanda that he began committing to sustainability and culinary education after meeting young artists who needed a little help to sell their work. Four years ago, Beaudin helped them open the Volcano Arts Studio, which has a restaurant attached, and he continues to sell artwork that they ship to him each month. He sends all the money to them to defray costs at the art studio.
“In Rwanda, I learned that it really doesn’t take a lot to make a difference,” says Beaudin.
Making positive changes in people’s lives through food is the goal of Beaudin’s other new project, which he hopes will bring better nutrition, funding and job training to orphaned kids in Mexico.
As part of his work spreading the aquarium’s Seafood Watch message, Beaudin attended the Baja Culinary Fest in 2015 and 2016, and learned about the harsh realities facing orphans in Tijuana, where a lack of job training and support often dooms them to repeat the cycle of poverty after they age out of orphanage care.
Now, Beaudin and aquarium executive sous chef Adam Young are working with local partners in Baja to create vegetable gardens and aquaponics systems to grow fresh produce and fish for the orphanages. They also want to help open not-for-profit restaurants with the help of local culinary schools to provide on-the-job training for young people ages 16 to 18 and to generate income for the orphanages.
Back at the aquarium, where he’s worked since February 2015, Beaudin has been busy helping the institution apply its commitment to sustainability to its kitchen. An innovative box-free initiative he developed with Russo’s Wholesale Produce is now saving thousands of pounds of cardboard each month and he has also convinced other vendors to change their packaging.
“It’s an amazing thing to locally source food,” says Beaudin. “I’m out on the docks or at the farms at least once a month, and I’ve developed partnerships or friendships with all our vendors.”
Beaudin spoke passionately last year at the the aquarium’s Monterey Peninsula Chef Summit of the need for chefs to support their local food purveyors, whether salt sellers, farmers or fishermen. “Every meal should have a good story behind it,” he told other chefs and hospitality employees there. But aside from that, he says, it’s vital for chefs to cook with area ingredients, thereby creating demand and making it possible for small-scale operations to stay in business.
His hope is that he’ll inspire a food culture where chefs compete to see who creates food that’s truly sustainable and train the next generation of chefs to think that way.
“People think changing the world is hard to do, but if you do it one person at a time, it’s not so hard,” says Beaudin.
Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about sustainable living, health and horticulture for numerous publications and websites.
HIGH-TECH COUPLE FINDS
HAPPINESS ON A GOAT FARM
It’s not easy being green, as Mike and Jane Hulme, proprietors of Evergreen Acres Dairy east of Tres Pinos, will tell you—and it often takes some creative thinking.
The old sustainable ways of farming are being put to the test at this 36-acre organic raw goat milk dairy. For instance, flock protection is provided by the Hulmes’ Maremma dogs, an ancient Italian sheepherding breed, which last year fought off a mountain lion.
The Hulmes’ early warning system for predators? The farm’s noisy resident geese. Rodent control is handled not by poison or traps, but a platoon of rat-catching terriers, and fruit trees are nourished with composted animal manure. They’re also growing their own organic fodder for the animals in a newly constructed greenhouse. For the couple, both refugees from the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, working with this low-tech enterprise brings joy and satisfaction that they’ve found nowhere else.
“We prefer dealing with animals rather than people,” says Mike Hulme with a chuckle. “But this does offer unique challenges”— especially when you consider that they are doing all this mostly by themselves.
Both Mike and Jane spent time working on farms in their youth. Mike, born in England, relocated with his family to the countryside during World War II, and Jane, a native of China, sought employment in rural areas after high school—but they both wound up emigrating to the United States and working in the Bay Area, Mike as a tech executive and Jane as a software engineer.
Economic downturns in Silicon Valley led them back to the farming life. In 2011, realizing that it was time to commit to a certified dairy operation, the Hulmes bought the property with the help of investor Sallie Calhoun of Paicines Ranch, and the dairy is now fully certified to Grade A raw milk standards, in addition to being a certified cheese creamery and processed food facility.
Evergreen Acres is also on the CCOF list for organic certification. Evergreen Acres products can now be found at New Leaf Markets throughout Santa Cruz County and the Bay Area; they’re also available through a variety of Bay Area and Southern California CSAs, farmers’ markets and independent grocers.
The Hulmes are enthusiastic advocates for the health benefits of their organic products. Guernsey goats, which Evergreen raises, are known for having milk with a higher butterfat content and milder taste; “Children like it, and it’s easy to digest,” says Mike. Its other main product, organic duck eggs, are a favorite with chefs and nutrition devotees—duck eggs have twice the folate, choline and omega-3 content of chicken eggs and six times the amount of vitamin D, as well as a richer flavor and creamy texture.
The Hulmes are getting ready for more sleepless nights, as most of their 200 goats will be giving birth in March to spark milk production.
“Happiness is really important,” says Jane. “Sometimes we only sleep four hours a night, but we are fine, because we eat healthy and are happy.”
Evergreen Acres Dairy
606 Santa Anita Road, Tres Pinos