Meet Chef Leah Korger

Each month, we’ll highlight a different member of the Nutrition team, starting with the onion-pickling, ranch-making, recipe-creator, Chef Leah Korger (they/them).

What’s your food background?
Growing up mealtime was very important. Every day my parents made sure we all sat down to eat a home cooked meal together. At that time, I had no interest in helping to cook or garden! Thank goodness we all continue to change as we grow! Those meals planted the "food" seed in me. In college I fell in love with anything to do with food (and the science behind it) and loved completing my degree in human biology with an emphasis on nutrition. 

Most of what I love about food is it's power to bring people together, physically nourish us, and to build community. After all, everyone has to eat!

What compelled you to do this work?
I'm not done learning yet! I feel with the breadth of career possibilities within our food systems I will never run out of things to master and skills to learn. 

What did you do in your previous work?
For the past 4 years I was managing the central kitchen for the Wedge and Linden Hills Coops. Think 200 pound batches of scratch macaroni and cheese! There I developed a new catering menu, organized menu turns for the organization, began a bulk deli salad wholesale program, and a heat and serve hot bar wholesale program. Previously I served as a member of the FoodCorps connecting kids to healthy food through school garden builds, engaging after school programs, and classroom studies. I've also apprenticed at a few organic farms. 

What interested you about working at GRS?
I really enjoy building things! The program as a blank canvas was very appealing to me. Setting up procedures, systems, menus, budgets, and figuring out the formula to make the program successful is exciting! More so, the GRS community values and my own values are aligned and that is important to me in my career! 

Chef Leah showing their knife skills while prepping three bean chili vegetables

Chef Leah showing their knife skills while prepping three bean chili vegetables

Describe what you've been doing at GRS since you started
Learning how to use the printer (haha)! I've been observing, learning, creating a lot of spreadsheets, setting up vendors, facilitating conversations, roasting chicken, dreaming about future projects, giving high fives, and teaching loads of folks how to use "Geraldine," our food processor.

 What is your philosophy around food and cooking?
Food is so many things to me. It is a way to show how much you appreciate, love, or care for others. Food can be a way to heal ourselves, others, and the planet. Healthy food access is a human right, and so is the accessibility of food education. Cooking is also an art and a form of communication - one that is so immersive! You can smell, taste, see, hear, and feel this art form! 

Which menu/day are you most excited about and why?
Chicken day is my favorite! I am also excited about our GRS ranch dressing. 

Share a favorite recipe and the story behind it:
The last couple years I've been honored to teach and demo at Chef Camp. Chef Camp is an outdoor cooking adventure where (adult) campers can take workshops from chefs and spend the weekend eating until they will pop! Last year I created this unstoppable sauce that I paired with rum barrel smoked chicken, spicy glazed peanuts, and lime zest. It was inspired by the pull of vacation and the feeling of wanting to get out of Dodge for a few days. It also illustrated many points I spoke about including smoke science, the Maillard browning process (my favorite chemical reaction), balancing flavors in a dish, and how to be confident stepping away from recipes and trusting yourself!  You'll notice this recipe doesn't have strict amounts listed - play with it! The sweetness of the fruit and richness of the coconut milk is balanced by the acidity in the vinegars, salt, and heat from the spices. This sauce recipe would do well as a tofu marinade, as the base for a vinaigrette, in a cocktail, over grilled chicken, pork, or wherever you could dream! 

1/2 a pineapple (cored and sliced into 1'' thick slices)
1 pint ground cherries (gooseberries, or golden berries)
Anchovy vinegar (to taste)
Rice Vinegar (to taste)
Coconut milk (full fat)
Cayenne or chili flake (to desired heat level)
Turmeric (for color)
Sea salt

Grill pineapple and half of the ground cherries. Puree grilled pineapple, grilled ground cherries, and fresh ground cherries using a blender or food processor. Puree in the remaining ingredients until a smooth texture is achieved. Taste and adjust vinegar and spice levels. 

What is your vision for GRS food program?
I see this program growing into whatever this community desires! I'd love to see lots of local and organic foods in lunches, a small catering business for meetings and events, a pizza oven for garden parties, and more crossover between classroom education and the food we're serving! I also think there is a serious opportunity to give students (and the community) a real look at what a career in the food industry is through internships or mentorships. The sky is the limit!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I grew up dancing - ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, swing, Irish, modern, you name it!