We met Chef Lori Fulmer at a culinary immersion that we held in her San Francisco bay area late last year, when she was heading up culinary at the Melt, a fast-casual grilled cheese and cheeseburger chain. She’s now Senior Manager of R&D for bay area-based Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a coffeehouse chain with over 240 locations across the US. We caught up with Chef Fulmer on her first day at Peet’s, taking advantage of the transition to have a chat and take a look into her Chef’s Life.
Congrats on your new gig! What’s different about being a corporate chef vs. working in a restaurant?
Working as a corporate or R&D chef, you’re removed from the day-to-day madness of schedules and drama related to operations. No more having to be a dishwasher at the end of a shift! The regular hours, Monday to Friday, are a major plus for life-work balance. I’m stepping into a brand-new department at Peet’s, bringing a culinary perspective to the food & beverage department, and aiming to elevate the food to the level of the coffee. Peet’s has always been great at coffee, and now we’ll be working to bring the food up a notch. It’s an exciting challenge!
We always ask chefs how much they cook at home, when food is your business all day. How does it work in your house?
Cooking at home is therapeutic, and my husband is an avid gardener. We tend to eat a coastal Mediterranean style, keeping it simple and seasonal with lots of veggies from the garden. As for lamb, it’s only Aussie lamb on the bone in our house! We have a sous-vide machine at home, and we’ll often use it during the day to cook the lamb to perfection, then finish it on the grill and eat. In general, we buy less red meat, but make it count — always high-quality and grassfed.
What do you like about cooking with Aussie Lamb?
Before getting together with you all at the culinary immersion, I knew Aussie lamb as a consumer, but not as a chef. It was great to learn about the farming practices, the quality, how it was raised. The animal welfare aspect is really cool, and really important.
I really enjoyed cooking with Aussie lamb, and was surprised by the lack of gaminess. You get to taste the good parts of lamb; it has a sweeter, well-rounded flavor, mild, and tender. Enough distinctive flavor to know it’s lamb, but not overwhelm the dish.
One of the dishes your team created at the event was a gorgeous salad, a “Spinach Salad with Aussie Lamb Loin and Za’atar Pomegranate Dressing.” Can you tell us about that?
I have to give credit to my teammate Chef Justin Morrow from Canyon Ranch, he really ran with that dish, and it came out great! We used a sous-vide cooked lamb loin, seared to warm it up and give some char and color. Really any leftover cooked Aussie lamb loin or leg would work. We focused on Mediterranean flavors since they’re a great fit with lamb and are such a hot trend these days. Za’atar seasoning has (among other things) sesame, sumac, and oregano…lots of earthy, herbaceous notes. While you could put that on the lamb as a rub or other treatment, we thought to use it in the dressing, and it really worked well. The pomegranate molasses adds sweetness and bright flavor, and the other elements all combine to give you a really nice balance and complement the lamb.
Best of all, it comes together really fast, just have a few parts prepped, and then “throw and go,” just what I do when I get home and I’m hungry.
Sounds delish! We could use a bit of “throw and go” for tonight’s dinner ourselves…