Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Feature: Interview with Chef & Artist Timothy Pakron

Really excited to share Q & A’s of inspirational people. It’s been long on my to do list, and finally it’s here to share with you. These are people who captivate me in their craft and/or character. Some of them I've come to know face to face or through social media, and by inviting them here and getting them to participate in my, not too serious questions, I’m hoping to find out more.  The questions are lighthearted and playful while others probe a little deeper because it’s nice to know what lies underneath the surface. I look forward to sharing a Q&A with you on future Friday's.
Hope you enjoy! 

Without too much intro, here is my interview with Timothy Pakron, (aka Mississippi Vegan ) a talent of a chef, forager, artist and photographer with the warmest and brightest personality - happy to call him my friend.


Diana Bezanski

photo by Diana Bezanski

You have the cutest southern accent where are you from and what brought you to Brooklyn?
Aww, stop it! You're makin' me blush. :) I was born in raised in Gulfport, Mississippi which is on the Gulf Coast. During high school, I lived in north Georgia, and then in college, Charleston, SC. So I got a lot of southern accent influences happening over here! I moved to New York to pursue me career in being creative, originally with the idea of becoming a contemporary artist, and recently (1 year ago) morphing into becoming a food photographer and chef through the identity of Mississippi Vegan. Brooklyn is the part of New York that I was able to connect with and call home. I love it.

What strikes me most about you is your warm, bright and gregarious personality.  What makes you happy?
Why thank you Diana! That's very sweet of you to say. I've always loved being around people. And I love feeding people. But what makes me particularly happy is making people laugh. It gives me a unique satisfaction, unlike anything else. What else... Music, brightly colored produce, foraging, wine, and beards. 

Who or what inspires you? 
Who: people who have figured out how to make a living by doing what they are happy doing.
What: creative expression that evokes emotion. 

Other than your love of food, what else brings you joy or pushes you creatively?
I have a strong desire to surround myself with as much beauty as possible. I am constantly searching for it, creating it, eating it, and sharing it. My creativity stems from this exploration. It's something deep inside of me, an innate desire, to search for this beauty. And being creative is a result from this. What pushes me is when I finally tap into this beauty or see someone (a fellow artist or friend) who has tapped into as well. When someone can share something that is not only beautiful, but emotional and meaningful using the form of creative expression, that inspires me beyond belief. Because it makes me realize that I have the potential to do the same thing.

How do you begin your day?
I wake up, make a pot of coffee, take a hot shower, and usually call my mom! Then I write a list of things I need to do. Then I attempt to do the list. Some days I get the list done. Other days I don't. :)

What part of the day are you most active and creative?
In the afternoon I usually get work done, but the majority of my work happens at the end of the day, usually at night. I love the nighttime, in particular very late (12-4 am) because I find it to be so peaceful and quiet. And people aren't bugging me then! 

What started you on your path to foraging for food in nature? And what thrills you most about the process? 
Well, I have always been interested in plants, even as a child: locating fruit trees, harvesting and gathering different flowers, berry picking, and climbing trees. But I never referred to collecting wild food as foraging. After living in New York and getting familiar with the farmer's market, I noticed a few stands would have some wild and foraged things. This excited me more than ever, just because I thought it was so special and unique and I wanted to share it with people. This led me to an online community and a local New York community that I've just immersed myself into. I go foraging now about once or twice a week and would like to go even more. What thrills me most about the process is the actual foraging itself and finding edible food- it's like a treasure hunt! And it is truly one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever experienced.

You've begun hosting dinners, most recently in NYC city where you cooked a six course meal using local ingredients. How was the experience working with local farmers and preparing food for your guests? 
The first event ended up being bigger than I anticipated, 30 people each night! It was incredibly stressful and also incredibly rewarding.  The process of researching the ingredients and working with local farmers was the best part!  And probably my favorite part.  I have some lovely farmer friends and I always give them a big hug and a kiss when I see them. Sharing my food with people was touching, to say the least.

What is your perfect meal?
A very large salad with a delicious dressing and two pieces of fancy avocado toast on really good bread. 

Your go to comfort food? 
Potatoes! French fries, potato chips, hash browns, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes, boiled potatoes- breakfast, lunch, and dinner- I could eat potatoes. 

Your favorite spice? 
Oh jeeze..... smoked paprika? Wait, cayenne pepper. But maybe, toasted cumin... No, black peppercorns. Umm. this is too much. Feeling overwhelmed. Help me. 

What top 3 food items fill your food basket at market?
Well, if I'm at the farmer's market, it truly varies as I like to shop seasonally and locally. But if I go to the grocery store by my house, I buy a head of organic celery, avocados, and good bread almost every time. 

Are you a salty or sweet kind of guy? If you had to choose between a bowl of sea salted popcorn or a slice of cake?
Salty 100%. Popcorn every time. 

How do you deal with stress?
Go on a run, call my mom or a good friend, make a list, get a massage. 

Describe your perfect day?
I would start off by going foraging on a spring day to harvest loads of wild fruit, mushrooms, and edible greens and vegetables. Then I would meet a friend for lunch at Angelica Kitchen (my favorite restaurant in New York). Then I would get a massage. Next, I would go to a great gallery opening or concert of a favorite musician. To end the day, I would open a bottle of really good wine and make a delicious dinner for my friends. And the perfect ending would be cuddling with someone who is super cute and makes me laugh. :) 

Where do you see yourself in the next two years?
I would say I could see myself continuing to do my pop-up dinners on a larger scale, maybe spread to other cities aside from New York. And I could see myself doing video related work, like a web series of some sort. But I don't know, we'll see!

Philosophy on food?
My philosophy on food is that it is a celebration of the plant kingdom as an artistic expression. One can choose to take exactly what they consider food and where they get it from as seriously as they desire. For me, these choices are some of, if not the most important decisions in my life. 

Your outlook on life?
In the last few decades, the world has rapidly become detached from how things are done, where things come from, and what their choices in life are truly effecting, and supporting. I feel that I was put on this earth to help reconnect this disconnect- in particular in raising awareness of where food comes from, why we are choosing to eat certain things, and learning how we used to live off of the land and why we stopped doing so. My job is to figure out how to do this while also being creative. I often feel overwhelmed with all of the terrible things that are happening in the world. But then I remember that I have to take it one day at a time and that I have to express myself as beautifully and passionately as possible, ultimately spreading as much love as I can.

What are you grateful for today?
I am grateful for the plant kingdom, because it provides me with sustenance, inspiration, and infinite beauty.

Timothy aka Mississippi Vegan

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