COW COW BOOGIE: The students in the new farm-to-table program will visit the grass-fed herd at Paicines Ranch.

When it comes to the culinary world, everything begins with the earth and sea. California has always been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, which promotes the idea that food should be produced locally for local consumers. It is no surprise then that the directors, professors and students at the International Culinary Center of California in Campbell believe that chefs must play an integral role in this movement. To further this conviction, the center has added a new six-month program, starting in February 2013, that focuses on teaching students about the issues the culinary world faces today, as well as about the origins of the food products that they work with—all in an interactive way.

“The idea is to make [students] aware of how food is produced, selected and distributed so that whether they’re working for someone else or for themselves, they’re able to make intelligent choices about the food that they use and the food that they buy,” says ICC’s president, Bruce McCann.

The program grew out of a collaboration between the International Culinary Center and Karp Resources. Dorothy Hamilton, founder and CEO of the center, pushed for a curriculum that focuses on the main issues the culinary world is facing today, including sustainability, quality and organics. “We need to get beyond the four walls of the kitchen and explore the bigger issues,” McCann says of Hamilton’s idea. “And these issues don’t just include flavor and variety and what’s out there in the world in terms of product, but also sustainability. We need to focus on what we can do and what we should be doing as chefs to act responsibly in terms of feeding the United States and feeding the world in general.” Karen Karp, a leader in the “good food” movement and president of Karp Resources, designed the course to reflect the growing importance of these issues in the culinary industry.

Students will travel to innovative and sustainable farms and institutions. These trips include working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium—to learn about aquaculture and sustainable fishing—and visiting a 7,600-acre grasslands-restoration project and ranch in San Benito County. Ultimately, the goal of the course is to produce chefs who have an extensive knowledge of the pastures, vineyards and waters from which the ingredients they work with come. “From our perspective, we view ourselves not just as a culinary school but as a culinary center,” McCann says. “The object of the program is to start the process so that the chefs going out into restaurants are knowledgeable about [such] important issues as sustainability, quality and organics.” (For more information, see www.internationalculinarycenter.com.)