April 16: Bread lab inspires chef promoting handmade food

By Cathy McKenzie, WSU Mount Vernon

pasta-book-coverMOUNT VERNON, Wash. – James Beard Award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Marc Vetri will share his culinary insights – and fresh pasta samples – at a free, public book signing at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center.

While in the area, he plans to meet with La Conner School District Food Services Manager Georgia Johnson to discuss his “Eatiquette” healthy school lunch program.

Founder of Philadelphia’s Vetri Family of Restaurants, he has visited WSU Mount Vernon on several occasions after hearing about the work being done in The Bread Lab with locally sourced and heritage wheat and grain varieties under research center director Stephen Jones’ plant breeding program.

Chef Marc Vetri rolls out pasta during a recent visit to The Bread Lab. (Photo by Kim Binczewski, WSU Mount Vernon)

“I heard Dr. Jones speak at a seed conference at Stone Barns (in New York) just before I went to Italy for research for my new book,” Vetri said. “His presentation stuck in my head. While I was in Italy, everyone was talking about stone milling, fresh wheat and milling for flavor; so I emailed Dr. Jones from Italy and asked if I could come visit.”

Vetri’s book, “Mastering Pasta” (hardcover, Random House, $29.99), was released March 17. Copies will be available for purchase at the signing.

Vetri paused when asked what he does differently as a result of his collaborations with The Bread Lab (http://www.thebreadlab.org/).

“That is a loaded question. Everything … and it is ever evolving,” he said. “There is just so much to learn when you start to think of wheat not as a commodity but as an integral flavor and texture compound. When you understand it, it starts to become a game changer. We use The Bread Lab for resources, knowledge, experiments and furthering our education.”

School lunch program

Vetri said he hopes to share that understanding through his Vetri Foundation for Children (http://www.vetrifoundation.org/), a nonprofit aimed at helping kids experience the link between what they eat and how healthy they are. His “Eatiquette” school lunch program introduces students to a variety of visually appealing and nutritionally sound foods in an interactive, family style dining experience.

“We just want kids to start realizing the connection between healthy eating and healthy living – and that it’s not only what you eat, but how you eat it, that makes a difference too,” he said. “Sitting around a table, interacting and getting involved plays a major role in children’s development, as does a healthy diet with less processed food.”

About the book

“Mastering Pasta” features the art and practice of handmade pasta, gnocchi and risotto. It was researched over a 10-year period and written in collaboration with David Joachim. Its 261 pages of narrative and recipes are interspersed with photography by Ed Anderson.

“Vetri’s personal stories of travel and culinary discovery in Italy appear alongside his easy-to-follow, detailed explanations of how to make and enjoy fresh, handmade pasta,” according to the publisher’s synopsis. “Whether you’re a home cook or a professional, you’ll learn how to make more than 30 different types of pasta dough, from versatile egg yolk dough, to extruded semolina dough, to a variety of flavored pastas – and form them into shapes both familiar and unique.”


Stephen Jones, WSU Mount Vernon Research Center, 360-416-5210,

Wendy Hebb, WSU Mount Vernon Bread Lab, 360-707-1914,