Today we’d like to introduce you to Bee Holleran.
Bee, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
One of my very first memories is being in my backyard on the east coast eating white clover blossoms. Both of my parents were talented gardeners so we had a lush variety of fresh vegetables (shelling peas for dinner was a favourite job- one for the bowl, two for me…) and there were flower beds just bursting at the seams where ever you looked. Instinctively I knew that I could nibble the strawberry blossoms but despite loving the scent of the lily of the valley right next to them, I was never to taste them. The more I learn about edible flowers the more I feel confident that we have a deep connection to plants and nature if we allow ourselves the time and quiet to accept it.
I crafted my career around food and early on landed a contract that had me creating a monthly lunch, a cultural event, focused on a country or region. I would research the music, textiles, traditions and feast foods of each place. It didn’t take long to realize that edible flowers play a prominent role in celebratory foods all around the world. What struck me during these meals was how the presence of flowers seemed to bring each person in to be more present themselves in that moment. To slow down, pay attention, appreciate, finally to eat with intention. It was beautiful!
From that point, I couldn’t imagine cooking without flowers.
Now, I cater, prepare small batch products, and teach through workshops.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I moved to Montreal as a young adult and spoke Spanish rather than French so finding a job was not very easy. My choice was to create jobs for myself rather than accept positions I didn’t enjoy. I’ve loved my work so much to the point where each time I am paid I felt like it is a bonus, I’d do this work for free!
My advice? Be brave. Start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Be kind. Eat flowers! ;o)
Please tell us about Flora Cocina.
I love flowers. I grow them, hand harvest every blossom, preserve them (or use them fresh) and cook with them. Nurturing is natural for me and I do that most often through food, healthy food. I can’t imagine preparing something for someone that isn’t good for their body, it seems totally counterproductive. So I tweak dishes, including desserts, to incorporate nutrient-dense ingredients without compromising the impact of the finished product. I want things that look good, taste good, and do good!
Years ago, I heard Jamie Oliver implore anyone who cooks to teach 5 people how to cook 5 dishes, with the idea that they will go on to teach others and that will eventually lead to everyone having a basic repertoire in the kitchen. I took that to heart and then up a notch. I believe that if I can teach you to cook with edible flowers and you do that, you will get such a positive response from your guests that you will be encouraged to do it again and again. You learn, you cook, you break bread with those who matter to you. It builds relationships, it’s beautiful. Anything you are cooking from scratch in your kitchen is going to be better and healthier. Whole food, it’s the way to go.
My use of edible flowers is more than just aesthetic. I do make beautiful wedding cakes with gorgeous fresh blossoms tumbling down but I bring the flowers in as an integral flavor component as well. It’s thrilling to discover new and exciting flavor combinations for both savory and sweet foods.
In my workshops, I teach anything from edible flowers 101 to using flowers behind the bar- how to make floral bitters, syrups, ferments and then creative garnishing with flowers. I love to share what I’ve learned over the past 25 years of working with edible flowers!
Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
Oh my, yes!
Podcast would be Unf*ck your Brain.
Books: Bringing it to the Table by Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan, The Art of the Commonplace, Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry (favourite author!), Permaculture: a Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison, The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden both by Samuel Thayer
And then, I go down the google rabbit hole regularly till the wee hours of the morning!
- Website: floracocina.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @floracocina
- Twitter: floracocina