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There's a new Folk School chef in town, and she's shaking up our menu in a delightful and delicious way.

There’s a new Folk School chef in town, and she’s enhancing our menu in a delightful and delicious way.

We are excited to have world-class chef Maggie Davidson join our team. Maggie studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, specializing in pastry and baking (lucky us!). Before arriving at the Folk School, Maggie worked at prestigious restaurants and hotels throughout the country. She is also an avid fiber artist. We are happy to welcome Maggie to the Folk School Community, and look forward to savoring her culinary creations.


Maggie Davidson in the Folk School Herb Garden

CP: Where are you from? Tell me a little about yourself.

MD: I’m from Tucson, Arizona. I’ve lived lots of places, but kept coming back to Tucson, until 1998, when I started to move around the country to build my resume as a chef.

CP: Did you always want to be a chef? What made you want to pursue a career in cuisine?

MD: My heroine has always been Julia Child, from her old shows on PBS when I was growing up. I began baking when I was 9 in 4-H, but my parents were too intellectual to encourage that as a career. I majored in English, but worked in kitchens to pay for school. After school, I became a manager at an outdoor store, did that for 13 years, and realized I wanted a different career. I sold my house, cashed in my savings, and moved to Paris to go to Le Cordon Bleu. I studied pastry, not cuisine, and worked as a pastry chef for most of my career so far.

CP: What drew you to the Folk School? Had you been here previously?

MD: I have wanted to take a class here for a long time. Two years ago, a friend and I came to the Fall Festival, and we loved it. The school, the setting, the people here, I loved it all.

CP: Do have any specialties? Describe your cooking style.

MD: Pastry is my specialty, all baking and pastry, really. My cooking style is to make the food as appealing to the eye as the palate, and to use as much fresh, local ingredients as possible. I hope to become more involved in the Folk School Garden, to work with Joe Baumgartner (the Folk School Head Gardener) to use as much of what we grow all year.

product_3637_1CP: What’s your favorite tool in the kitchen?

MD: A plastic dough scraper called a Racle Tout. It scrapes messes away, cuts dough, cleans bowls. I love it.

CP: What is your favorite spice or flavor?

MD: Hmmm… I don’t know if I have one! I like almost everything! The only thing I absolutely will not eat is lima beans.

CP: Who is your cooking guru/hero? What or who inspires you?

MD: Well, Julia, of course, but lots of people inspire me. Liz Pruitt of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, Pierre Herme of Paris, Michael Laskonis in New York, who’s teaching himself to process chocolate from the plant to the finished dessert. I like Anthony Bordain’s fearlessness in eating everything at least once. And my son, who is a chef in Nashville. Anytime I need an opinion on a menu or recipe, he is all too willing to give me his!

The Cronut!

The Cronut by Dominique Ansel

CP: Can you tell me about a career highlight gig? Or a dream dish/situation/meal?

MD: I worked for 9 years at Blackberry Farm, and always had famous chefs come to the hotel to cook for the guests. Once, Daniel Boulud, owner and chef of Daniel, Café DB and other restaurants came with his pastry chef, Dominique Ansel. Dominique was young, but already making a name for himself. He was so fun to work with, involving my whole staff in making his amazing dessert, and making sure the diners knew we helped, which was unusual for such a high profile chef. And now, he’s the inventor of the Cronut, which is the most coveted dessert in New York. His bakery is Dominique Ansel Bakery, in New York and in Tokyo.It’s fun to say I knew him when, and he’s a nice guy!

Not only is Maggie a fantastic chef, she is an accomplished fiber artist. Check out this beautiful woven "Lee's Surrender" blanket.

Not only is Maggie a fantastic chef, she is an accomplished fiber artist. Check out her beautiful woven “Lee’s Surrender” blanket.

Maggie gathers lavender in the Folk School Herb Garden

Maggie gathers lavender in the Folk School Herb Garden

CP: What type of classes would you be interested in taking at the Folk School?

MD: Ah, too many to mention! Tapestry, furniture making, spinning, dyeing, glass blowing, painting… lots!

CP: Are you going to teach any Cooking classes at the Folk School?

MD: I’ve been asked to think about what I’d like to teach. I can teach any aspect of pastry or baking. I’ve been teaching classes like that for many years.

I’m also an avid fiber artist, I’d love to teach something in that genre too!

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The Elusive Thunder-chicken

by Jan Davidson, Director on June 16, 2016

in Jan writes ...



The Folk Institute of Developmental Development and Lunacy Exorcism, (FIDDLE)

Dear Friends,

I appreciate your reading and responding to my humble efforts to keep you abreast of the important developments in facts and mythology from Brasstown. So here is about my 87th letter. It requests a donation. If that’s all you need to know, thanks very much, and please check out the great interview with Tim Ryan a few scrolls down.

Experts at the Brasstown Institute for Gratuitously Making Up Data (BIGMUD) are predicting a year of fright-making up 40%, dismay production up 15-25% and competitive incivility in one’s face increasing by at least 60% this year. Good news: The Folk Institute of Developmental Development and Lunacy Exorcism, (FIDDLE) is always ready with tested tips for living. They recommend as follows: every time you turn on the t.v. and anyone is being rude or insulting your intelligence, turn off the t.v. (including t.v. online) and go to Every time. Good for you, good for the world, good for t.v., good for the Folk School.

Now more than ever, the Folk School meets important needs. The Folk School is here as your welcoming home, a timeless farmstead with humming workshops, woodland lanes, rolling pastures, flowers, gardens, greenhouses, fruit trees, bees and the blue mountains. [click to continue…]


Marguerite and Georg at Bidstrup Acres

Marguerite and Georg at Bidstrup Acres

Our May 31st Gala & Benefit Auction, last Saturday 11, 2016, was a success! We are still waiting on the official grand total, but we are happy that all proceeds raised will help improve the school’s sixteen on-campus studios and further our mission. We thank the artists who donated fine work, our many dedicated volunteers, our Folk School staff members, and our generous Auction guests. [click to continue…]


Drawing in the Moment

by Emily Buehler on June 8, 2016

in Featured Classes, Painting & Drawing


Lighting a still life with vase and grasses

Lighting a still life with vase and grasses

What’s better than a week at the Folk School? Two weeks, of course. That’s why after teaching the Science of Bread in May I stayed to take Drawing Techniques and Tools with Pebbie Mott and Pam Beagle-Daresta.
The first day we learned about the tools we’d be trying: drawing pencils (which range in darkness from the pale 9H to the black 9B), water color pencils (draw, then add water), charcoals (soft and hard, plus white to use on gray paper), ink with a brush and bamboo pen (Pam brought walnut ink she’d made in a previous class), and Micron pens. After trying the techniques, we’d pick one for a final project.

White vessel to practice values with light and shadows

White vessel to practice values with light and shadows

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KS2A4495I first met Tim Ryan on a misty morning in the Folk School Garden when I was a Work/Study in 2011. My immediate impression of him was that he was a very witty & interesting character with lots of fantastic stories. Tim is involved in the Folk School in so many different ways. He recently handed over his position as Resident Artist in Gardening and Homesteading to Karen Hurtubise and he will be co-auctioning (with Bob Grove) the Gala & Benefit Auction on June 11, 2016. I thought this would be a good moment to sit down and learn a little bit about Tim the gardener, auctioneer, medicine showman, raconteur, kettle cooker, blacksmith, instructor, former Folk School Board member, bibliophile, and storyteller, that is Tim Ryan. We recently sat down over lunch to talk about many things. Enjoy our interview!

CP: When did you first come to the Folk School?


Tim Ryan with a bonsai tree

TR: I had gotten divorced and it killed me. This was 26 years ago. I was depressed and blue and three things saved me: my Blacksmithing buddies, Al-Anon, and having a daughter.

At one of the Appalachian Area Chapter Blacksmith Meetings in Mt. Juliet TN, they were having a raffle and the winner would get a free class at the Folk School. Well I don’t usually enter raffles, but my Blacksmithing buddies convinced me to enter and I won. I think they set it up because I was depressed and they knew I needed something else to focus on. It worked because I won the raffle in March or April and the class wasn’t until October, so all summer long I worked hard to become a better blacksmith, worthy of the class at the Folk School.

In the fall of 1990, I used my scholarship to take a 2-week Blacksmithing class at the Folk School with Francis Whitaker, which I was by no means near prepared for, naturally.

The Folk School Blacksmith Shop (Original Francis Whitaker Shop in the foreground, the new Clay Spencer Shop in the background)

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