It's a drizzly day at the Crenshaw Farmers Market in South L.A., and the small cluster of shoppers around chef Gill Boyd's booth gathers closer — getting their heads out of the rain, yes, but also getting a better view. Boyd is warming avocado oil in a wok while behind him two students from Le Cordon Bleu chop carrots. He's demonstrating how to cook cabbage with feta cheese and almonds, one of five dishes he'll make today with cabbage as the main ingredient. His observers clutch yellow pieces of paper with Boyd's recipes printed on them, following along.
“I've never seen greens that young,” one woman says. “They look great.”
“You get them right over there from South Central Farmers,” Boyd tells her, pointing to a nearby produce stand.
Just about every ingredient he is using can be purchased within a few feet of his booth. That's his thing: He sets up shop at various farmers markets around town — having graced Crenshaw, Hollywood, Atwater Village and Watts — and sources ingredients from the purveyors, creating health-conscious recipes based on what's in season. Then Boyd teaches people how to make them.
“I'm always thinking about a short number of ingredients and short preparation,” he says. “I'm not a guru — I'm not a nutritionist, either. I'm just a chef. My job is to show you how to use produce in a way that's easy for you, so you'll eat it.”
But why has he made this his job at all? A certified executive chef who once worked under famed California cuisine trailblazer Jonathan Waxman, the 49-year-old Boyd could be running a kitchen somewhere, charging high prices for high-end food.
“You can go the route of feeding the rich,” he acknowledges. “I could've gone that route years ago, but I said, 'You know what, that's not really for me.' My wife and I have eaten at three-star Michelin restaurants, and I enjoy it, but that's not my mission.”
Instead, he loves teaching. By day an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, he calls himself a “back-to-basics guy.”
“If I can get people to cook for themselves,” he says, “they're going to eat better, and they're going to use the great produce of the Earth, which I believe in. That's the thrill for me.”
At the market, Boyd doles out samples of various slaws, and asks a student to get another head from his aunt. His aunt and uncle are watching his other booth, at which he sells pre-made, healthy meals. He's trying to grow that business, as well as his website, on which he posts recipes and sells meal-plan packages.
As the proverb goes, Boyd is all about teaching the world to fish. “My mission is to get people to enjoy food by inspiring them to prepare it in a better way,” he says.
If you'd rather buy the fish, however, Boyd still has you covered: “And if you can't cook, I'll make it for you.”