Interview and written by Sally Kriebel
SOIL Sangre de Cristo welcomes another new board member, Sally Ayotte, a registered dietician and professional chef/educator. Sally is not new to Salida; she has owned property for 25 years and has lived here full-time the past 12. She grew up in Massachusetts. Coming from a family that prized growing large gardens and belonging to 4-H, Sally has always loved good, healthy, whole food. It was quite natural to decide on becoming a dietician; she became registered in ’85. Shortly afterwards she studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales in Denver. Through combining what she learned as a dietician and a professional chef, Sally has spent most of her career working in food services in schools, health care and research stations. By bringing food producers to regional gatherings to meet with buyers and vendors and to coordinate with the state inspector, she is facilitating getting whole foods to schools and elsewhere more readily. Hence Sally is bringing vast experience to SOIL with her extensive state-wide contacts, as well as with the different food systems locally and state-wide.
Among the programs where Sally has worked to introduce, provide and teach healthy cooking techniques are Salida’s Head Start and the Nurturing Parent Program. Some others include the hospital, Columbine Manor and the WIC program.
For Sally, her passion is teaching parents, their kids, as well as school and hospital cooks to move from using processed foods to whole foods. She teaches them to cook from scratch in ways that are fairly quick (especially for working parents). She also likes to emphasize proper use and safe handling of knives. Sally uses teaching methods that provide hands-on learning which include using recipes that are easy and cost effective to use at home. When teaching families how to wean away from processed foods, she aims to accommodate working parents and their families by scheduling classes at the end of the work day and to include the children’s involvement. The participants create a meal which they eat when class is over so they don’t have to cook once they get home. In the process, they learn about the importance of nutrition and exercise. Also, they have a new recipe to use at home. As Sally says, to achieve really good nutrition, food must taste good, and it should be able to be easily reproduced at home.
When concluding this most enjoyable interview, I asked Sally to share a memorable anecdote from her career. She spent 12 seasons with a US project at the South Pole. That experience, she said, taught her so much about working with the huge limitations in that environment to produce food. What a challenge; working there for 12 years seasons shows her strength of character, resourcefulness and creativity.
Currently Sally is working with the Chaffee County Local Flood Coalition to improve access to healthier eating and more active living. In her free time, she enjoys the river and the mountains.