About Michael Duhon
Artist Michael Duhon skillfully combines his expertise in architecture and cooking. An interior architect for more than 30 years, he was able to realize his client’s dreams for their homes. He did this through thoughtful, artistic design that combined form and function. Nearly two decades ago he decided to pursue his other great passion: cooking. Mike approaches cooking with the same fine eye for structure and balance that he honed as an interior architect. He now shares his love of the culinary arts, and vegan cooking in particular, with students from around the world.
From Architecture to Culinary Arts
Mike received his first commission to design a rural residence in 1978. He worked with contemporary forms in a green design. Using solar panels, and the Earth’s own wind and sun he rooted the structure to its environment. This formative project provided early experience that is visible in his work to this day. This includes the interplay of form, function, texture, lighting, proportion and spatial emotion. Following this, he worked at four architectural firms. In 2001 he transitioned to a career as an independent interior architect. He designs and build projects primarily rom a “small space, high use” point of view. These projects are secured through a network of client referrals across the country.
Mike received a degree in interior architecture before completing several culinary training programs. These were earned in the United States, as well as abroad. Of particular note are his studies in plant-based baking and cooking at The School of Natural Cookery. This was followed by a certification in classical French culinary arts from renowned school, Ferrandi-Paris. Mike has worked as an apprenticing chef in several restaurants across France. He has also worked in France and Japan as a guest chef.
Teaching Creative Vegan Cooking
In 1996, Mike began teaching creative cooking to home cooks using whole, plant-based ingredients. From 2001 to 2012 he worked with The School of Natural Cookery. As one of its core chef instructors, he taught dessert fundamentals, gastronomy, and performance dinner to aspiring plant-based chefs. Mike accepts work invitations as a guest chef for events locally and abroad. He is also available to cater for small group events and celebrations.
Artistry in Forms
For Mike, blending culinary and architectural forms is a natural artistic expression. It has evolved from observing his mother in the kitchen and building an appreciation for the ways we interact with our spaces. He believes that well-designed spaces and well-designed dishes involve similar components. These include form, color, texture and visual rhythm. Of course, in cooking, we are also able to explore the depth and variety of flavor.
Mike believes in approaching the culinary arts from a technique driven foundation. This provides cooks with an understanding of ratios and skills rather than simply following recipes. Following this approach provides limitless opportunities for creating simple or complex dishes. This can save time in the kitchen, and allow adaptation of any dish to dietary preferences. Mike has designed his classes to give students a foundational framework. Each student can move along a path of discovery and creativity.
Mike is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Three words that speak to how I approach teaching are
“FRAMEWORK, DISCOVERY, CREATIVITY”
“I’ve designed these vegan cooking courses to give foundational framework within which the student can soundly move along a path of discovery and creativity.”
A Baking Story
I bake because I can’t prevent myself from doing so. If I was a Buddhist I would quietly meditate before my altar. I’m not, therefore meditation happens in the kitchen in front of the oven! My mother, a farming wife, was an outstanding cook, baker, and candy maker. In her daily life, collecting, harvesting, preserving, cooking and baking were normal activities. The kitchen was an open kitchen with the stove positioned in the center of a long peninsula with a bar counter and swivel stools bolted to the floor. This was a place for coloring, glittering, homework, glueing stuff together, and most importantly watching.
It was a late 1950’s modern kitchen with a GE electric cooktop complete with a wall mounted control panel of what seemed like endless buttons. I remember as she maneuvered several pots at a time, the clicking of buttons to increase or reduce heat. It’s tougher than it seems with the old electric burners as opposed to gas. She had to anticipate what temperature would be needed under each pot so that when the moment arrived for more or less heat, the right button was pushed some minutes earlier. Click, click, stir, cover, uncover, steam rising, simmer, boil, sauté, braise, click. Did I mention that the oven was pink?
The floor was highly polished 12×12 vinyl tiles, alternating in a striped pattern of pink and gray, running throughout the main rooms and kitchen. The best was when ￼she made fudge, pralines and a kind of weird fluff called divinity whose destiny lay at the mercy of the barometer. What I remember was sugar syrup boiling and being tested in a cup of water til it “made a ball that held not too soft but not too hard” all while the whole egg whites were being beaten to the right peak. When it was all coming to a head, the dinette table, in the middle of the kitchen, became the mixing control center. All chairs pushed aside, except for the one that I needed to kneel on to reach over the bowl, I poured a steady thin stream of the “just right sugar syrup” while she methodically whipped.
It probably started with the pancakes.
Did I intend for a cooking and baking passion? Hard to say as it just seemed like what normal people did in the kitchen. Boy, did I learn that wasn’t the case as all over post war America, modern home cooks were being liberated by packaged and frozen food.
As a kid I was the pancake maker using a chair to give me flipping leverage over the skillet. With an at home mom who essentially ran the house, yard and kitchen with clockwork precision. Not only was there always something to do but it was also rare to be there alone. One day, when I was maybe 13, I was home alone. What does a 13 yr old boy do for a few hours when suddenly alone? Drink, smoke, sex? Not, apparently when you’re, first, nerdy and secondly, been sponging up years of kitchenly observation that needed to be wrung out.
Without time to waste, I hauled out all the baking ingredients and with visions of the most fabulous cookies and praise for having made them, began mixing some of this and some of that in a bowl. I knew that I needed flour, eggs, butter, vanilla, and of course baking powder, to start with, and who knows what else for good measure and a grand result. Pour, measure, stir, drop batter with the right space between, click, pink oven. I imagined a plate of perfectly invented cookies, arranged on a plate, kitchen cleaned with no trace of the dash left for my mothers arrival, while I appear lazy and bored. Oh for the love of ratios! I had made the perfect uni-cookie, one perfectly flat cookie layer, edge to edge in baking pan, with a slight layer of melted butter turned oily.
The Beauty of Baking Ratios.
It would be many years before I was taught how to make cookie batter with x parts of fat to y parts of flour and z parts of sweetener so that, yes, there would be enough flour there to hold the fat! Every ingredient has a role and it’s never pretty when one tries to dominate the batter. This, the reason to learn how to bake using ratios.
Ready to go to the next level in your vegan cooking and baking education?