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A B.A. in sociology helped Collins Anderson '04 follow his passion

collins anderson chef front porch san francisco connecticut college

Sous chef Collins Anderson ’04 considers his chicken liver mousse and braised pork shoulder on roasted fingerling potatoes to be among his standout dishes.

But at 12, it was his desserts that impressed his family. “Since then I have always cooked food for friends and family because food is one of the things that done right always makes people happy,” he said.

Now, Anderson is on the staff at The Front Porch in San Francisco, a popular Caribbean restaurant that has introduced him to such new dishes as “Chicken Liver Baxters Road” – deep-fried chicken livers topped with a burnt brown sugar sauce, chicken demi-glace, and sautéed onions.

“The sweetness of the sauce with the iron of the liver served on bread is amazing,” he said. “People who don’t like liver love it.”

Anderson knew that he wanted to become a chef after high school and considered going to a cooking school, but his parents advised him to get a college degree first. He took their advice and was grateful for it.

“I was elevated to sous chef quickly because of the organization and problem-solving abilities a liberal arts degree gives you,” he said. “Usually in this industry, it takes five years to get to a management position, if you ever get the opportunity at all.”

Anderson found ways to fit food into his daily routine while majoring in sociology. He once prepared a meal for his ethnobotany class, and when he traveled to Italy to study, he used his free time to learn about European cooking at some of the town of Grado’s restaurants.

“The three months I spent in Italy really showed me what food could be in a food-loving culture,” he said. “This experience really sparked the passion I already had for food.”

Like any chef, Anderson had to work up to his current position. After graduating, he decided to move to San Francisco instead of attending cooking school and worked at Incanto with Chris Cosentino, who appeared on the television shows, The Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef America.

For the first few months, Anderson was constantly tested. He was yelled at and criticized for his salad-making and cutting techniques. It also wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to have 30 dishes to prepare in five minutes.

“The chef tests you to make sure your food is up to standard, and your coworkers want to make sure you’re not going to drag them down with you when you mess up,” he said. “It can be damaging to the ego but makes you good at your job quickly.”

Anderson’s resiliency paid off. He learned a lot from Cosentino, including how to cure meat and where to find the best local produce.

“Being a chef is like being at school every day,” he said. “You’re always learning. If you aren’t, then your food is never going to get to its apex.”

Anderson hopes to eventually own a small American/Mediterranean restaurant and would like to follow the path of chef Jamie Oliver, who gives disadvantaged children an opportunity to work in a restaurant once they get out of high school.

“My field of work is a great equalizer. Anyone can be a success – someone advantaged like me or someone who falls in love with cooking during their first dishwashing job,” he said. “It’s about work ethic, pride, and passion – something missing in most other jobs.”