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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
Give a warm Folk School welcome to Maggie next time you are in the Dinging Hall!
Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com