Lorain County Community College culinary program chef Bradley Ball delights in introducing new foods and flavors to students enrolled in his From Farm to Fork classes. But the chef’s greatest joy is ensuring they appreciate the origin of the meal they’re preparing. To accentuate those lessons, Ball schedules frequent field trips to farms throughout the county.
“So many of my students have never been on a farm,” he says. “Once they get their hands in the soil and plant, they’ll treat vegetables with tender loving care because they’re actually helping to produce them.”
That hands-on learning also extends to getting the most out of a hog a 4-H student has raised to show at the Lorain County Fair. Following the fete, livestock are auctioned off to the highest bidders, which gives Lorain County Community College the opportunity to purchase one each year for Ball’s class. When it arrives, the chef leads his students through the preparation of a variety of entrees and sausages, which they donate, along with vegetables, to the college’s Commodore Cupboard food pantry.
“One of the things I feel very passionate about is whole-animal butchery,” Ball says. “I spend one day teaching my students about what parts of the hog different cuts of meat come from — as well as the fifth quarter, which includes the heart, liver and bone marrow. I start at the
top of the pig and work my way through it, making the most of what each part provides.”
Although students relish the pulled pork sandwiches they craft, several sumptuous surprises await. The tail and ears are cooked in fat overnight and deep-fried the following day to ensure tenderness inside and crispness outside. Students then toss them in an Asian-inspired orange or sweet-and-sour sauce for the ultimate taste test.
“Their minds are blown because it is such a unique texture,” Ball says. “The hog,” he adds, “is truly a magical animal.”
As the chef prepares lesson plans for this fall’s class, he reflects on what he hopes his students will come to realize through the experience.
“Everything that comes to a kitchen is a gift,” Ball says. “I want to teach my culinary students to be more careful cooks. Clearly, if you do all this work from the start, you’re not going to just let something burn in the pan or throw away the scraps. Being successful in this profession is truly an art form.”