Iowa Chef Recounts a Life in Food
DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa chef who has taught thousands of students the difference between trussing and tossing over the past 43 years is in his final weeks with the Iowa Culinary Institute.
Executive Chef Robert Anderson at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) recently was recognized by the Iowa House of Representatives for his leadership at the school. The 68-year-old Anderson says the advent of television cooking shows changed what kind of students came to study at the institute because they knew what they wanted to achieve as a chef and he could help prepare them.
"Basically, it's experiences with the students; being able to help the students out, help them grow, help them move on, further their careers, and so it was always enjoyable to work with the students," he says.
In 2000, Anderson was inducted into the Honorable Order of the Golden Toque - one of only 99 American chefs and the only Iowa chef selected for the culinary achievement.
A Minnesota native, Anderson joined DMACC in 1974, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He says during his four decades as an Iowa chef, he's seen changes in what kind of food, and the quantity of food, Americans are willing to eat.
For example, he notes people are more eager to eat fish, but when they do eat protein, it's in smaller quantities.
"I know when I started, it was not uncommon to have a two-pound porterhouse tenderloin steak for dinner," he notes. "Now, mostly, it might be a 16-ounce or even a 10-ounce."
Anderson says he's trained many students who've had an "a-ha" moment and enrolled at the Culinary Institute after a 20-year career as a lawyer or doctor. He says many young people these days want to join the farm-to-table movement where fresh, locally sourced food is the centerpiece.
"We've been able to work with the farms and do farm-to-table, which is very good, to work with the Iowa farmers and put products out on the table that are Iowa-produced," he adds.
When he hangs up his apron on August second, Anderson says he will be taking people on tours to U.S. and foreign destinations with an emphasis on culinary experiences.