The aftershock of the Le Cordon Bleu lawsuit has affected more than just students with loan payments in arrears. "They laid off all of the academic instructors, [last] Monday was my last day," said Margaret Mott, a communications instructor at the Pasadena location.
"All of this investigation into the school being a for-profit, the controversy, has had a real effect." Mott says the school recently changed the structure of the culinary programs, so the handful of business-related academic classes formerly required for graduation are no longer part of the curriculum.
But pink slips were hardly on Mott's mind on Sunday, where she was all-smiles while drawing in the Dare Ya! (habanero-chipotle beef jerky) curious at her Smokin' Mamas booth at the Beverly Hills Farmers Market.
"I've been doing this a few years now, after friends told me I just had to sell this stuff," she says in a thick North Carolina of her small smoked fish, jerky (beef, seafood, chicken, and yes, even bacon), and smoked salt business.
Mott says the upside of the unemployment line will be having more time to devote to her food business. "I can tell ya, I am looking forward to not having to wake up at 3:15 a.m. for the 6 a.m. class!" Her partner, Lyn Sweeney, nods in agreement and hands over a sample of the Cracked Pepperhead (beef jerky cloaked in fresh black pepper). In addition to their Sunday Beverly Hills Farmers Market appearances, the Smokin' Mamas operate a small To-Go deli at Highland Park's La Tropicana Market (Mott's business partner, one of her former Le Cordon Bleu work study students, runs the deli side of the biz).
Mott hot-smokes (most smoked fish is cold smoked) organic Scottish Salmon and Pacific sturgeon with apple wood, both a nod to her Southern BBQ roots. As Mott smokes small quantities at a time, the Cyrovac pack offerings (she uses various flavored glazes) depend on what she has in stock. "If someone wants 10 pounds of smoked fish, I'd do it, but it would probably take me a month!," she says, laughing.
The spicier beef jerky flavors (Cracked Pepperhead, Red Chile Firecracker) are particularly good, with a meaty chew to offset the heat. Mott had been cleaned out of her three chicken jerky flavors (original, Southern BBQ and buffalo wing-spiced) by the time we arrived. "No one was doing it, it's my take on turkey jerky," she says. That "healthier" slant seems to have played well to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills crowd.
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Her "bacon" jerky is also on the leaner side. "Kind of like diet bacon," laughs Mott, referring to the lean pork loin meat that she uses to make the jerky. The loin is then sliced, cured and smoked like bacon. Mott smiles, adding that she took her bacon jerky development project to some students while she was still an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu. "The students fired it for me," she says, proudly ("fired is chef-speak for cooking).
"Oh, I am really going to miss my students -- such a great group of kids.," she says. "Now, I really hope I can sell some jerky!"
Note: This writer attended Le Cordon Bleu's Baking and Patisserie program in 2005 but did not have any classes with Mott or know her prior to Sunday's jerky jaunt.