Outstanding in the Field
TOPICS: Farming, Art, Community, Entrepreneurship, Events
A self-taught chef and land artist, Jim Denevan draws inspiration from the earth to create sensual works of fleeting beauty – culinary installations in sunny farmlands across America and large-scale art pieces on the wave-swept sands of coastal beaches.
The founder of Outstanding in the Field was formerly Executive Chef at Gabriella Café, an intimate eatery in the laid-back surf town of Santa Cruz, California. With a menu that changes nightly, dictated by the whims of the season, Jim helped establish Gabriella Café’s four-star reputation for farm-fresh seasonal food, presented in a simply elegant style that lets the ingredients sing.
Born in San Jose, Jim started cooking in Santa Cruz restaurants when he was 17, working at night so he could ride the waves during the day. Jim still spends many mornings in the company of seals surfing the break at Pleasure Point. His culinary resume includes stints at Balzac Bistro, Pearl Alley Bistro, and Primizia, and he has consulted for the Blue Plate in San Francisco. In 1996, Jim participated on a Chef’s Collaborative panel, discussing sustainable food choices with fellow chefs Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe in L.A. and Rick Bayless of Chicago’s Frontera Grill. And he has fed participants attending the annual Eco-Farm Conference held in Pacific Grove for several years running.
Jim has spent time getting his fingernails dirty, too. Inspired by brother Bill Denevan, one of California’s earliest organic farmers renowned for his dry-farmed apples and pears grown in the hills above Santa Cruz, Jim took a six-month break from cooking to work on Dirty Girls Farm, a thriving organic operation within Santa Cruz’s city limits.
Jim Denevan also is an emerging land artist whose work has attracted considerable international interest. In this realm, his canvas is the sand of coastal beaches, where his panoramic drawings, etched with driftwood, rake, feathers and other tools, take hours to create and disappear in the time it takes for the tide to rise and slowly sweep them away.
He made his artistic debut in January 2005 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and also was a featured artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito that same year. Photographs of Jim’s work taken by collaborator Ari Marcopoulos are on exhibit through Summer 2008 at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center/ MOMA in Queens, NY. Filmmaker Chesley Chen’s documentary about Jim’s life and art, “Sandman,” premiered in 2006, and Jim is one of several featured artist/surfers in Patrick Trefz’s new surf movie, “Thread.” (To view Jim’s art, visit www.jimdenevan.com.)
“Like my sand drawings, the creations of both farmer and chef are ephemeral, reaching perfection in the dirt and the pan and achieving their ultimate apogee in the diner’s mouth where they are savored and quickly become a memory,” says the artistic chef.
“Life is transitory, so we need to take time to appreciate it. Our long Outstanding table in the field is an invitation to relish the simple grandeur of the surroundings and say thanks to the farmers who put the food on our plates and give us such pleasure.”