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LA Chefs' Suppliers: A Cook Pig Ranch's tale - the beginning Part 1

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First part of three parts, please click hyperlink at bottom to continue to the next part

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With industralization and modern living, people no longer know where or how their food is raised. People no longer know who their farmers, ranchers and fishermen are. Rather food production to a large degree has been concentrated and pushed out of view so that most consumers are quite oblivious as to how what they eat has been produced. Though as more and more people are learning about the detrimental consequences to their own health, to the welfare of the animals being raised, and to the environment of such an industrialized and concentrated approach to food production, a growing number of consumers are seeking out healthier, more environmentally sound and more humane options for their sources for food, especially for meat and dairy products. Still the vast array of labels for consumers often are confusing and many terms have been co-opted by large industry so that the only real way for consumers to know their food is to once again know their farmers, ranchers and fishermen.

So meet Mike and Krys Cook of Cook Pigs Ranch located in the hills and forest outside of Julian in Southern California. Their pig ranch supplies a number of LA chefs like Walter Manske, Wes Avelia, and Steve Sansom superior tasting pork products that have been and currently are on the menues of many of the top restaurants in Los Angeles like Petty Cash, Sotto, Republique, Sqirl, and Bouchon as well on the food trucks of Guerrilla Tacos, and Heirlom LA. Their pork is also available at McCall's Meat & Fish in Silverlake and in numerous other eateries in the OC and San Diego. Plus once again, Cook Pigs Ranch will be supplying pigs to the chefs participating in Cochon555. Cook Pigs Ranch will be supplying four pigs to this year's event occuring as the third stop of Cochon's national tour on February 23rd, 2014 at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.

Neither Mike nor Krys grew up raising pigs. Krys grew up on a rural property in Calabasas (LA county). Despite Krys's dad's desire to own and run a working ranch like the one he spent much of his childhood on owned and operated by his Grandfather in Northern Los Angeles County, Krys's mom didn't share this desire. So Krys's parent's compromised and lived on a one acre horse property near Topanga Canyon. Here Krys grew up loving the outdoors plus developed a great affinity for animals at an early age. Dogs, horses, goats, frogs, hamsters, fish, and the outdoors were all her passions. Krys, also being an artist, did makeup for the studios for a while until she got bored and went back to school. She majored in psychology and fine art at Cal State Northridge University graduating with a BA in Fine Arts. She then went on to graduate school at Loyola Marymount University and graduated with an MA degree in Art Therapy, with the intent of becoming a Marriage and Family Therapy Counselor.

Mike grew up on the other coast on the pan handle of Florida. There he learned how to hunt and fish from his parents. He also learned at a very young age how to butcher his own meat as well as do light taxidermy. So naturally Mike developed a great passion for the outdoors. After 9/11, Mike joined the military and has been on active duty ever since. Another passion Mike inherited from his family is cooking. He enjoys cooking anything and everything. These two met while Krys was completing her undergraduate degree and Mike was stationed in Ventura, California. Though their backgrounds were very different, they shared and continue to share a passion for the outdoors, and a love of animals, food and cooking.

Through several deployments and hardships, their relationship based on loyalty, grew stronger and stronger. The two got engaged, their first dog Sherman, the tank, and after another deployment, had a huge wedding in Santa Barbara. Krys got pregnant on the honeymoon. Though she still had a year left of her graduate program and Mike just got orders to go to San Diego in the winter, Krys somehow finished her graduate degree as well as create the most amazing masterpiece in their lives to date: their son Preston Asher Cook.

According to Krys, she wasn't exactly a maternal person before Preston was born. She actually wasn't sure she really wanted to have kids. At that time, she considered herself a very self absorbed career focused person. Mike and Krys bought their first place in the suburbs of Oceanside. Krys stayed at home with Preston. When her baby was six months old, he started having serious medical issues that for the next three years would consume Krys. He had severe undiagnosed GERD and severe food allergies. Then when Preston was eleven months old, she got pregnant with her second son Jameson, which made her feel all the sudden very confined by suburbia.

So with two babies under two years of age, they sold their house and bought an acre and a half in Fallbrook, California. Since their new property was zoned to allow livestock, they decided they would get one of each animal to raise for themselves that Mike would slaughter and butcher. Krys wasn't exactly sure how she felt about all of this, but she liked that she knew where her food was coming from especially considering all of Preston's health issues. So they got goats, sheep, ducks, chickens. None of these animals were that interesting to her so despite, at that time, having two kids eighteen months apart and a husband who was always gone on training, she was bored.

Mike and Krys then got four pigs and their lives forever changed.

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End of Part 1; please click here for Part 2 to continue
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