Chefs in training tour Well-Pict BerriesWATSONVILLE, Calif. – Well-Pict Berries, grower-shipper of proprietary strawberry and raspberry varieties, opened its doors to student chefs in the Culinary Institute of America’s farm-to-table program.

The program’s menu for visitors to the school’s Greystone campus in St. Helena focuses on seasonal ingredients grown and harvested by students.

The July 19 stop at Watsonville-based Well-Pict was part of a larger food, wine and agricultural tour, chef and instructor Larry Forgione said.

“Even though we have our own farm and the students are working that farm in the mornings, it’s very important for them to go out and see it on a larger scale,” Forgione said. “You have to see both sides. They see the differences in farming methods and techniques and really develop their own sense of what direction they want to go in with their careers.”

About 35 chefs in training came on the tour, which included stops at shipping and farming sites in Watsonville and near Salinas.

For Well-Pict Berries, the tour was a step into new territory.

“We’ve done smaller tours before, primarily with retailers, buyers and customers,” said Julie Lucido, chief executive officer and director of marketing for Marketing Plus, which represents the shipper. “But this is the first public relations event we’ve done.”

“The Culinary Institute of America approached us because of the farm-to-table concept that’s very important to their instructor, and we were glad for the opportunity,” she said. “Chef Larry Forgione used the Well-Pict brand at his restaurants in New York.”

“We’ve been to a number of different farms, not necessarily monoculture,” Forgione said.

Dutra Farms grower Chris Hogan, a Well-Pict supplier, took the students on a tour of a hydroponic raspberry operation.

Well-Pict ships about 130,000 boxes of berries daily during peak season, sales manager Dan Crowley told the visitors. About 10% of volume is organic.

Crowley guided the group through the company’s shipping facility and discussed differences in demand and sought-after strawberry characteristics in various markets, such as Japan. Shape, color and other characteristics then became the topic of a presentation by Plant Sciences at a Well-Pict test site later in the tour that finished with a tasting.