Jan Findlater has been involved in the food industry for over 30 years, and has been a vegetarian for 35 years. After college, she started working at Curds & Whey, a three-part high end cheese shop, European wine shop, and gourmet deli in Berkeley, CA, and considers herself lucky to discover over 150 cheeses and learn about their origins along with ideal food and wine pairings. Findlater returned to Colorado and worked part time as a caterer, and in the health food industry, and after a 10 year break world traveling and working for United Airlines, she opened Great Harvest Bread Co. (a from-scratch, whole grain bread company) in Fort Collins, CO. Despite the franchise label, they expanded their bread repertoire by creating a variety of artisan breads that did not fit the “franchise” mold, along with innovative new sweets. Those efforts paid off as they were often voted one of the top three best tasting bread bakers in the franchise.
During this time, Findlater became a Certified Nutritionist (after completing a 2 1/2 year program), and slowly started meeting with some clients. Toward the end of her 9 1/2 year tenure at the bakery, she temporarily located to NYC to attend culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and the Culinary Arts, run by Anna Marie Colbin, well known author, lecturer, and founder of the school. Her education focused on culinary healing as well as traditional culinary skills, and she returned home to Colorado most week-ends to be with family and help manage the three bakery locations. Findlater completed culinary internships with Amy’s Bread in NY, and at the Gold Lake Mountain Inn and Spa in Ward, CO (under the guidance of Chef Erik Skokan, current owner of the famous Black Cat Bistro and farm in Boulder, CO.
Findlater opened the first culinary school in the Rocky Mountain region for Whole Foods Market when they opened in Fort Collins, CO, and during the next five years, she worked with many local, regional, and national chefs, along with a variety of specialists in the healing arts, offering an average of 20 classes per month. As the cooking school coordinator, she taught nutrition and vegetarian cooking classes, created a monthly schedule with class descriptions and personal biographies of the teachers, and organized special culinary events for the store. She also taught nutrition classes to several city agencies. When she left Whole Foods Market 5 years later, her program was #1 in the country in terms of revenue for Whole Foods Market.
Findlater then opened her own catering company, Fly By Diner, serving local, seasonal, and healthy cuisine. Her client base was varied, but most of all, they were looking for a blend of creativity and healthy menus. Highlights included preparing food for 850 band members for the Bohemian Foundation’s New West Fest in Fort Collins, 2 years in a row, catering for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, US Senator Mark Udall, and singer Willy Nelson, and preparing food and beer pairings for New Belgium Brewery, along with caterings for many nonprofit organizations. She also worked part time as the Chef de Cuisine at the International Wine Guild in Denver, CO, and completed her entry level sommelier certification.
Findlater’s culinary education continued during her time as a caterer. She spent 2 weeks at the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese learning about cheese making and the artisan cheese business and studied chocolate-making with Ecole Chocolate, where she received a certification as a “chocolatier”. She also briefly interned with award-winning chocolatier and pastry chef, Robin Autorino, owner of Robin’s Chocolates in Longmont, CO.
Currently, Findlater is working on a cookbook and her blog, and traveling frequently, dropping by any farmer’s market that she can find.