Interview with Chef Felisha Wild from Our Daily Salt

There are perhaps one or two  people that I would cite as an inspiration or an influence to my cooking or cooking philosophies. If anything, I wouldn’t even say that Chef Felisha Wild inspires my cooking – it would be more accurate to say that she has inspired how I look at food versus what I actually do to it. A chef, an educator, an artist, she walks the walk and talks the talk, all with her own unique interpretation. At a certain level, any chef or cook has to have these qualities. I have known Chef Felisha of Our Daily Salt (http://ourdailysalt.com/) for quite some time now, and she never ceases to impress me with her projects. Her most recent? Acquiring a beehive! I decided to sit down and email her a few questions because I want other people to see someone who pushes herself and her talents to the maximum. Chef Felisha lives each day to the full, jumping in full-tilt to whatever she has going on.

Chef Felisha Wild of Our Daily Salt

Chef Felisha Wild of Our Daily Salt

  1. Please tell me about your education and experience. Why did you decide to become a chef?

My love of food started at an early age. My parents divorced when I was young, so many of my cooking memories were when I got home from school, calling my mother to get cooking pointers on how to make something to eat.

After graduating high school, I joined the Army and lived in Germany for 3 years. During that time I met a good friend of mine from New York that taught me the basics of Chinese cooking. When I moved back to Wisconsin, I approached a Chinese restaurant with some kim chee (kimchi) that I had made and my restaurant adventure began. My initial job with the restaurant was making huge amounts of kim chee for the restaurant as the owner didn’t know how to make it as good as I did. After that I started to work in the kitchen chopping, breaking down foods and generally learning all of the functions of the restaurant. Over time I was apprenticed to the owner and head chef in the restaurant. So in short, I am a Chinese trained chef that went through an apprenticeship process at a Chinese restaurant.

I cooked there for over 10 years and still go back on occasion to visit. I have also worked and headed many different restaurants, even being a raw vegan chef for a small cafe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin . I have also traveled and cooked in Malaysia, Russia, Canada, and all over the United States and have continued to expand my culinary experience.

My culinary contributions have been waning as I’ve been building our current business, which is making durable goods for people out of wood. However I continue to teach people one on one, as well as classroom instruction on culinary techniques and principles.

 

Honey Locust Bowl being crafted

Honey Locust Bowl being crafted

Handcrafted Rolling Pins

Handcrafted Rolling Pins

  1. What made you decide to make your own kitchen utensils? How did you discover you had this talent?

I’ve never taken a woodworking class in my life and until a few years ago never touched a table saw, wood lathe, etc… but we purchased a house and after finding out how expensive it is to remodel a kitchen I decided to take it on myself.

After doing the kitchen design, and installation I realized that I was pretty handy making and designing things. I had always wanted an end-grain cutting board so I decided to make one with the tools that I had purchased for the kitchen remodeling. I made 2 small cutting boards, one that I still use daily, and the other I gave away on my website. It may have ended there but many people expressed an interest in purchasing a cutting board from me so I started to build them in small quantities.

Then my partner decided that she wanted a wood lathe. I didn’t know how to use a lathe but we purchased a small one and started doing small projects with it. Over time we saw the need to expand our capacity in our shop to include a much larger lathe to do bowls, pepper mills, and other products that we produce. I design everything that we make and I also have some local artists make items for us that I design as well, such as our honey pots.

  1. Why do you make a point to use reclaimed materials in what you make? Please explain a bit about your personal philosophy.

Many of the things that we make come from raw materials that other people don’t want. Most of our bowls come from trees that were blown down from storms or people cut down for various reasons. We try to make as much use out of the wood as we can out of respect for the materials and trees.

My personal philosophy is all about making the most out of what we have. Whether it’s food, talent, wood, we can all make choices to make life better, for our family and the world.

Going 'shopping' for material for her work!

Going ‘shopping’ for material for her pieces!

  1. Please, briefly, describe a typical day in your life.

I typically get up around 6am and spend the early part of the day planning, catching up on social media, making calls, emailing, doing household chores, eating breakfast and taking care of our puppy and 2 cats.

After that I get into the workshop and start making many of our products, with priority going to pending orders. If I’m caught up on orders I take inventory of what we have in stock and make items that we need to fill the gaps. Many of our items take several days to make. Our rolling pins take almost 3 days to make and our cutting boards take 3-4 days to make.

Also because many of the things that I make come from very rough beginnings I often have to go and pick up logs, lumber, or other tools to complete work. I’ve been forced to become very proficient with a chainsaw. After I make a mess in the workshop I often have teaching obligations in the evening. My teaching time is dwindling however as the business of making products and building the business is taking more of my time. In the evening I try to cook something tasty, catch up on the website, orders, social media and do some reading before crashing into bed to do it again the next day.

  1. Where do you see yourself in 1 year from now? 5 years? What do you hope to have accomplished by that point?

In a year from now I would like to move the business out of the house and into a retail/workshop location. I would also like to expand the business into other areas such as wholesaling, sales representatives, and start hiring additional staff. We are are now looking at different ways to accomplish those immediate goals and we are contemplating perhaps running a Kickstarter campaign in the near future.

In 5 years I would just like to do more of what I’m already doing. Learning, passing on what I learn to others and perhaps have some time to travel and meet some of the wonderful people that have touched my life with their generosity. I want to keep on track with the business and make products that are lust-worthy and that appeal to as many people as possible. I also want to continue to reach out to other artists so that we can expand our offerings both through retail as well as online.

 6) If there is one message you could give my readers, what would it be?

Be flexible and work hard. You never know what hidden talents you have until you try. Everyday I try something that could end up in failure. Take risks, be brave, eat well, and most of all have fun. 🙂

I asked Chef Felisha to be so kind as to share a recipe with us. Please folow this link:  http://ourdailysalt.com/recipes/vegan-recipes/spicy-butternut-squash-soup-884  

Comments

  1. Great to learn about the famous Chef Felisha!

  2. Sina @ the kosher spoon says:

    What a great interview! Thanks for sharing her work and philosophy.

  3. Kristen says:

    Very nice article. I am still trying to figure out where you get all your energy:)

  4. Hi Sarah, thank you so much for the interview. You did a wonderful job writing this up. I love working with you. Have an amazing rest of the week dear.

    Chef Felisha

  5. Great advice — and not just talk. It seems you have been successful following the path of discovering hidden talents, taking risks, working hard, eating well and having fun. Love that advice.

  6. Cool interview! love hearing about the paths that lead people to where they are today!

  7. What an incredible interview! You have a skill for this, Sarah. I’m loving those rolling pins too!!!

  8. This is so great, I love learning what other amazing talent is out there!

  9. I really enjoyed reading this interview. It’s always interesting to see how people’s interests and hobbies evolve over time.

  10. Wow, this is very cool, gorgeous stuff.

  11. Great interview, thank you so much!

  12. The utensils she makes are beautiful! I love hearing how people get started down their paths.

  13. thanks for introducing me to Chef Felisha!

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