Volunteer of the Month: Eric Bleau

June 7, 2013

CUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Learn more about volunteering and sign up here.

At the start of 2013, CUESA was lucky to have Eric Bleau come onto the volunteer scene. Over the past several months, he has supported our fundraising events Hecho en San Francisco and Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market, cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, and office work. He most enjoys the educational opportunities, he says, “whether it is helping folks understand food labeling at the Discovery Station or assisting at the author talks with Michael Pollan and Daphne Miller, MD.”

“I was particularly grateful for his help one Saturday when our Discovery Station Coordinator, Jessi Barber, sprained her ankle and couldn’t come in,” says Julie Cummins, CUESA Director of Education. “Eric was signed up to assist for a couple hours, but when we called him with the news, he offered to run the station all day, entirely on his own. He’s a natural teacher, so I felt confident he would do a good job. He’s been so generous with his time and skills, and we’re lucky to have him on our team.” Thank you, Eric!

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t at the market or at CUESA’s educational and special events?
Eric: I have a small consulting business that helps sales professionals achieve greater sales potential by implementing email marketing and internet marketing strategies. Fortunately I have flexible work hours, which allow me ample time to volunteer. In addition to CUESA, I volunteer with many other foodie groups, including Slow Food, Good Food Awards, San Francisco International Tea Festival, and many others. In addition, I help out at Martin de Porres House of Hospitality to provide nourishing meals to people in need. When I am not working or volunteering, I enjoy live music and going to music festivals. I also enjoy the great outdoors and embarking on adventures with my daughter Stella and stepdaughter Rachel.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?
Eric: The rule in my house growing up was if you helped with the cooking, you didn’t have to do the dishes. Needless to say, I hated doing dishes. While I was a child, my parents always encouraged me to try new things. My mother is from Switzerland, so I can remember eating many things that most American children would be disgusted by; headcheese comes to mind. I have always been intrigued by food from other cultures. Once I tried sushi, it was on. Later in my teens and early twenties I really perfected my culinary skills. I watched hours of PBS cooking shows and practiced on my family. Fortunately for them I was a natural.

CUESA: What made you want to volunteer for CUESA?
Eric: Last year I moved back to San Francisco after being away for more than a decade. So being a foodie, I thought I ought to check out what had become of Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I first started coming to the market in 1993. Back then there were just a few vendors operating in the rubble of what used to be the Embarcadero Freeway. I was so impressed with what had become of the market and the transformation of the Ferry Building into a food mecca that I wanted to get involved. In addition, I have been a longtime advocate of organic food and sustainable agriculture. So becoming a volunteer with CUESA was no-brainer.

CUESA: What’s your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
Eric: Creating tasty dishes with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and sharing them with the ones I love. Many people find recipes and then go to the market and look for ingredients. I prefer to go to the farmers market to see what is in season and see if there are any specials. I enjoy the challenge of creating a fantastic meal with what is fresh and available that day.

CUESA: Do you have any insider market tips?
Eric: Build relationships and create community with the vendors and customers at the farmers market. Ask questions and engage the famers. They love answering questions and are willing to share information about their products and framing practices. Take advantage of the educational opportunities that CUESA has to offer. This will help you navigate your way through all the crazy food information out there in the marketplace. The more you are informed, the more you will enjoy your market experience.

CUESA: Do you have a recipe youd like to share?
Eric: Every year a group of us travel up to Quincy, California, for High Sierra Music Festival. It has become a tradition that I serve up my famous mojitos. Over the course of the four-day weekend, I make more than 200 individual cocktails. Everyone loves them so I thought I would share the recipe with you all. Before you start, make sure you have some great music on, I prefer bluegrass.

Erics Mojitos
10 mint leaves
Freshly squeezed juice from 1½ limes
1 oz Charbay Vanilla Rum (Please don’t substitute lesser quality rum. Charbay Vanilla Rum in is what makes this Mojito so special.)
1 oz Cruzan White Rum
1 oz simple syrup (I make my own with equal parts organic cane sugar and water)

Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of a shaker. Add the lime juice, rum, and simple syrup. Fill the shaker with ice, then shake, and pour in glass. Top of with 1 to 2 ounces seltzer water, and enjoy!

Bottom photo by Tory Putnam.

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