Chef Erin Cochran began her culinary career in Manhattan, working with chef Tom Colicchio (Gramercy Tavern) before moving to San Francisco and cooking at Foreign Cinema. She then became a private chef for Couch Surfing, which led her to international stints in both Istanbul and Italy. When Erin returned to the Bay Area, she joined the kitchens at The Heirloom Cafe, where she was sous chef, and at Octavia. Now, Erin is venturing out on her own, combining twenty years of culinary experience and a love of organic agriculture. Farmhand will be a small, family-style establishment with an attached, fully-functioning farm. With Feastly, diners get a sneak-peak into the dishes and concept for this new restaurant!
How did you find your way into the historically male-dominated culinary industry?
My first job in a kitchen I point blank asked if they hired women to cook, and was told no, but that I could be a ‘salad girl.’ Then one day a cook didn’t show and they were desperate and I convinced them to give me a chance. I was leading the line eight months later.
What has been the defining moment in your career?
Starting a farm and hosting my first dinners on it this year. That has been my dream for as long as I can remember.
Tell us about the ladies who serve up culinary inspiration in your life.
There have been a lot over the years. Gayle Pirie and Stephanie Doane at Foreign Cinema because that restaurant puts out unbelievably high-quality food out of a small kitchen that is doing a huge number of diners every night. And they work with small farms – it would be so much easier for them to order from one big produce company on their volume. Melissa Perello – I’ve worked at Octavia for a year and a half now and I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as she does. And she puts out beautiful food day in and day out like it’s nothing.
What advice do you have for other women trying to build culinary careers?
Don’t be afraid to jump into the fray. The boys can talk a big game, but talk is just talk.