JIM DENEVAN – FOUNDER
Chef and artist Jim Denevan is founder of the long running traveling farm dinner series Outstanding in the Field which has inspired interest in the farm to table movement across the country.
Jim’s career in food began as a teenager when he took a night job as a restaurant dishwasher in his hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. His only interest in taking the job was that it took place at night and that he could devote all his days to surfing at nearby Pleasure Point. Jim’s dishwashing skills slowly progressed and eventually he was promoted to the position of second line cook. Surfing came first and most afternoons Jim would arrive to work late.
After a few years of hardcore surfing and marginal interest in the kitchen Jim traveled to Italy and France to work as a model. He figured his travels would help him get a broader picture of the world and maybe help him find out what he wanted to do with his life. Several months in Milan and Paris and numerous meals later his appetite had changed. Jim became fascinated with the culture of food and no longer considered each meal to be only fuel for the next surf session.
Returning to the United States, Jim took a job cooking at Trattoria Primizia in Capitola, California which featured the authentic cooking of Central Italy. Jim soon became head chef and began his creative exploration of ingredients. At this time, because of the growing influence of Alice Waters, Jim and a few other restaurants were beginning to mention the sources of ingredients on their menus. Among those sources was Jim’s brother Bill Denevan, who farmed organic apples in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. Jim eventually took the head chef position at Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz and with control of the menu and direction of the restaurant he began to focus on the story of ingredients. Twice a week he would visit nearby Santa Cruz Farmers Markets with a custom bicycle trailer and collect the week’s produce from farmers including Greg Beccio of Happy Boy Farm, Jeff Larkey of Route 1 Farms and Andrew Griffin of Mariquita Farm. In 1996, Jim participated in a panel discussion of the Chef’s Collaborative that took place in Santa Cruz with noted chefs Rick Bayless and Evan Kleiman. Inspired by the discussions and meeting of chefs from around the country, Jim decided to focus more closely on the farm to table connection.
In the late 1990s farmer dinners in the restaurant became farm dinners on the farm and now many years later Jim still travels coast to coast every year, tables and chairs in tow, sharing the message of Outstanding in the Field; honoring folks whose hard work brings food to the table.
When Outstanding in the Field is on hiatus Jim can be found doing his artwork on the beach in California and elsewhere. To view images and learn more about his artwork, visit his website www.jimdenevan.com.