Thai roots, thirst for innovation make Jem a gem
Edible Berkshires met Jem and Robin Ezinga at the Lebanon Valley farmers’ market, located at Windswept Farm in New Lebanon, New York.
It was, the scent of Jem’s wok cooking wafting across the grounds, not to mention the market-goers standing in line to order, that caught our attention.
Growing up in Thailand, one of a daughter’s duties was to help prepare the six meals a day that the family would eat. Jem admits her love of food and a thirst for learning has sent her on a quest to discover new techniques, flavors and food preparations.
In 2006 she took her first professional job with Chef Tommy Carlucci, chef and kitchen manager at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, New York. Chef Carlucci grew up in lower Manhattan and has been cooking all of his life. So Jem got a crash course in Italian and American cooking.
From 2007to 2008, while continuing her work at Hawthorne Valley, Jem was asked to cook once a week at the Omi Lodge, Omi International Arts Center in Ghent. Cooking on-site for visiting artists, authors, musician and dancers helped to hone her Italian-American culinary skills further.
On her days off she would familiarize herself with American ingredients, produce, spices and herbs by wandering through markets and studying what was offered that she had never seen before.
I’m guessing that her motivation, along with her work at Hawthorne Valley, may have included a nudge from her husband, Robin, the IT manager at the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington. In Thailand Jem loved going to towns that offered street food, watching the vendors cook, starting a conversation and, if she was lucky, learning a secret recipe.
One such mecca for street food is the city of Had Yai, also known as Hat Yai, the largest city in the south of Thailand. Jem, conveying her true love with Thai cuisine, shares with us the infamous southern-Thai-style “Had Yai” fried chicken with dipping sauce.
After preparing it in the Edible Berkshires test kitchen, we encourage those with their special fried chicken recipe to give this one a try.
Thai Food by Jem is available at the Lebanon Valley farmers’ market. The market opens Memorial Day weekend through mid-October, Sundays, 10am–2pm. Spring is right around the corner!
Edible Berkshires is a local, independently owned publication dedicated to covering the unique culinary culture of Western Massachusetts.