Happy Wintertime friends!
I’m SO excited about my final interview of the year! I am pleased to welcome Nathan Bochler to Cowgirls & Collard Greens today. Nathan wears many hats, all having to do with two things that I love– food and drink. Nathan is a Specialty Produce Ambassador with Specialty Produce— a restaurant and chef wholesaler in San Diego, California. He’s in charge of purchasing the best quality and most unusual fruits and veggies available– can you say dream job!?! In case you find yourself in the San Diego area, Specialty Produce is open to the public everyday from 8-5 pm– it’s a great place to check out rare and exotic produce along with all the usuals.
Though I haven’t met Nathan, I was turned on to him via his Instagram account and quickly became enthralled with his produce photos and short informative videos and, I couldn’t wait to invite him for an interview. Read on to learn more about Nathan’s background, where his love of food stems from, some of his favorite unique fruits and veggies as well as his top farmers market recommendation.
As always, thanks for tuning in y’all!
Happy wintertime, Kayle
Cowgirls & Collard Greens: Your official job title is Restaurant/Hospitality Consultant, Chef/Owner, Food/Drink Optimist, Farmers Market Enthusiast and Specialty Produce Ambassador. Wow, do you really wear all of these hats?
Nathan: These are just a few of the hats I wear. What can I say, food excites me! I really enjoy the extreme activity level and constant change the food industry presents.
C&CG: Can you tell my readers how you began your love affair with fruits and veggies? Did it start at an early age?
Nathan: My love affair with fruits and vegetables started at an early age. I could see very early on; the reaction food gave to people. I knew almost immediately I wanted to be a part of that experience in some way. Fruits and vegetables always seemed to fulfill that mission. You could eat a new fruit or vegetable every day until you die and still not try them all.
C&CG: Did you study farming, biology, botany or anything of the like in school?
Nathan: I went to school for a liberal arts degree, which pretty much makes me an expert at cooking French fries. I think a liberal arts degree teaches you principals of “how to” learn. Once you develop that skill set, you can follow your passion. I’ve always had a curious mind and strong interest in farming, botany, and biology.
C&CG: Do you have formal culinary training? If so, from where?
Nathan: Formal training? If you mean “done in accordance with rules of convention or etiquette” then yes. If you mean “officially sanctioned” school, then no. My parents owned restaurants and I grew up in the industry. I’ve been very lucky to work with great mentors. People patient enough to answer thousands of my questions. I’ve always a strong work ethic and passion for learning. It’s not something you do 7 hours a day, it’s more like 7 days and hour.
C&CG: Your job as Produce Buyer with Specialty Produce is an interesting one. Do you really spend your days locating the best and most unique fruits and vegetables in and around Southern California? Is it true that San Diego chefs buy their produce from you?
Nathan: I have one of the greatest jobs in the country. I work with the best chefs and farmers in the world. The bulk of my job is listening and exchanging ideas. Southern California is unique in agriculture. Farmers can grow subtropical fruits like jackfruit, bananas, mangoes, or lettuce and potatoes. Specialty Produce operates a mobile farmers market program that brings hundreds of different fruits and vegetables directly to the chefs. We let the chefs taste the produce and get inspired. The immediate feedback improves the entire process. The farmer, chefs, and consumers get the benefits. Specialty produce is open to the public but we sell to the best chefs in San Diego, or ship across the country.
C&CG: I’d imagine that you have attended many farmers markets. Do you have an all-time favorite in Southern California or beyond?
Nathan: I travel to many farmers markets around the country. My favorite is Santa Monica Farmers market (Wednesday or Saturdays) I like this market for its consistency and quality of farmer and produce. I can tell you however, every Farmers Market has something special. You don’t go to the markets just for the produce, you go for the people and the experience you gain.
C&CG: You are constantly in contact with hard to find produce. What’s the most unique fruit or vegetable you’ve tried?
Nathan: I have tried many unique fruits and vegetables in my job. Some of the few that stand out in my mind are: the baobab, which is an African native fruit that has a hard-woody outer shell, like a coconut, and has an unique sherbet and sour cream tasting flesh. Gac Fruit is another. Gac is small melon that grows on vines throughout Vietnam. It tastes like cross between cucumber, carrot and blood. Another intense experience is fresh Sichuan Peppercorns. They offer a complex peppery flavor and a numbing sensation that starts with bright citrusy notes and finishes with a warm heat that leaves your tongue and lips buzzing with an almost anesthetic feeling. Really incredible!
C&CG: This is probably a difficult question, but…do you have a favorite fruit and vegetable?
Nathan: My favorite fruit or vegetable? I’d like to taste every fruit and vegetable in the world. There are over 20,000 species of edible plants on earth. I would have to say my favorite would be anything I’m tasting for the first time. Having said that, I’ve had some awful tasting stuff and some very amazing ones too. A tree ripened Valencia Pride Mango is a pretty magical experience. I eat both the skin and flesh. It tastes like tropical coconut and is nearly fiber- less. Truly heavenly.
C&CG: A lot of exciting things are happening in the farming movement with more farmers growing organic and using interesting methods and practices that are more kind to the earth like biodynamic and veganic. Where do you see the future of farming going?
Nathan: The future of farming is creativity. Specialty Produce creates platforms that allow farmers to get paid the maximum amount of money for their toils. We offer several: a physical space, a warehouse open to the public. Also, an online catalog that presents live inventory. Another platform is our Specialty Produce app for smart phones, which is an encyclopedia of fruits and vegetables. Finally, we have a mobile farmers market. The future lies with the use of technology, information, product knowledge and relationships. The farms that employ these components will be successful.
C&CG: I was introduced to you via Instagram when I discovered your informative produce videos featuring fruits and vegetables that I have never seen or heard of before. If folks are interested in watching your videos and finding you online, where are the best places to do so?
Nathan: There’s many ways to discover information about fruits and vegetables. Firstly, check out the Specialty Produce app. It’s an absolute must for anyone interested in fruits and vegetables and how to prepare them. You can also check out my Instagram or Twitter: or my videos on YouTube. Also check out SpecialtyProduce.com or follow specialtyproduce and specialtyproduceapp on Instagram.
All photos by N.P. Bochler collection.
A love and passion for food and cooking was instilled in Nathan as a young boy. Nathan was born and raised in Northern Wisconsin to a family of restaurateurs and food lovers. His love of culinary arts began at a young age, working in his parent’s kitchens at age ten. After working his way up to kitchen manager at age 17, his fate was sealed as an eternal culinarian and career restaurant professional.
Nathan graduated college with a major in Hotel and Restaurant management. After working in various hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin he realized he wanted to pursue his passion for food and moved to San Diego, California in 2004. He immersed himself in the San Diego food scene. After working for a handful of restaurants in La Jolla he landed a chef position at the Cohn Restaurant Group. Having been responsible for menu development, concept creation, staffing and training, he knows firsthand the hard work and motivation needed to be successful in the industry. After leaving the Cohn Restaurant Group he took the culinary director position at Zanzibar Café, overseeing multiple locations including full service restaurant, catering and wholesale outlets. As a chef Nathan has appeared on local television, newspapers, food blogs, and The Food Network. In 2013 Nathan decided to follow his passion even further and took position at Specialty Produce, as a Farmer’s Market produce buyer focusing on local farms and area foraging.
Nathan resides in North Park, California with his wife Haley, a certified sommelier, and their beautiful Rottweiler. In his “off hours” Nathan is a restaurant/hospitality consultant, personal chef, food/drink optimist, slow food supporter, forager, food blogger, and farmer’s market enthusiast.