Chef opens recreational cooking school on family farm
Jessica Hansen says she has always enjoyed getting her hands dirty in the earth and in the kitchen.
So it appears that the Oregon native has the perfect occupation: She is the owner and operator of The Kitchen at Middleground Farm, a recreational cooking school located on her family farm in Wilsonville.
Hansen grew up in a small Oregon farming community. Summers were spent picking strawberries and helping her grandmother put up garden produce. She earned a business degree from Portland State, but felt her true calling was in the culinary world. She graduated top of her class at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland and then dove into her culinary career.
Besides running a catering company, she helped develop the Sur la Table culinary program at the Pearl District location in Portland, which cemented her love of sharing her knowledge with others. After a time with Sur la Table, she partnered with Wolf and SubZero appliances, teaching customers in a kitchen classroom how to use their new appliances, so they could be confident in their own kitchens.
Disheartened by conventional food systems, Hansen started seeking out alternative sources for her familys food, buying locally raised meats and fresh local dairy products. She started making her own cheese and traveling to artisan creameries to gain knowledge. Then in 2011, she and her husband Jason bought a 17-acre farm in the Wilsonville area. She started her small herd of dairy goats from two bottle babies named Brie and Benji.
Then came the chickens ... the llama George ... twin human baby girls Ava and Camille ... and who knows whats next? Hansen writes on her website, middlegroundfarms.com.
The Kitchen at Middleground Farms is housed in a refashioned cattle barn, equipped with a modern kitchen and state-of-the-art appliances. A vegetable garden supplies the kitchen with produce; the familys laying hens provide eggs and a herd of Nubian dairy goats provide milk. Neighboring farms and local artisan producers supply much of the rest.
We believe local, seasonal, humanely and sustainably grown foods are the most delicious and healthful, but we cant be perfect all the time, Hansen writes on her website. Youll see us at Costco, too. And you wont find a hybrid tractor here. There is no elitism in our personal farm-to-table movement. Everyone has to find his or her own middle ground. That is how we came to the name Middleground Farms.
The Kitchens cooking classes are primarily hands-on and explore fundamental skills in the kitchen and garden, as well as some of the lost arts of handcrafting and preserving food.
We focus on the traditional methods of cooking, from making the perfect pie, to learning the basics of cheesemaking, to putting up fruits and vegetables for the winter, Hansen says. We will guide you through basic knife techniques and the science behind food and why it behaves the way it does in different situations, to create confidence in your own kitchen. That confidence translates into more fun and better food out of your kitchen!
The Kitchen also carries a variety of cheesemaking supplies and canning jars and other preserving tools. To view the class schedule and learn more about The Kitchen, visit middlegroundfarms.com. The Kitchen at Middleground Farms is located at 4651 S.W. Homestead Road in Wilsonville.