Meet the Chef!

Get to know our newest Culinary Institute Chef Instructor: Aimee Francaes!

Chef Aimee Francaes

Who or what influences your cooking?

It feels as if anyone that’s ever shown a spark of passion, around food or not, has influenced and reverberated my love of food. I’m a big fan of picking up a cookbook or searching for a recipe online when my interest is piqued in a dish or culinary part of the world. Influence is very real and I love that it continues outward like skipping stones on water.

When did you know you were going to become a chef?

Although I accept the term ‘chef,’ I never consider myself one! In my mid/late 20’s I realized I’d love food to be my main profession. I had dreams of opening up my own place with my spouse, Jesse Hassinger. We finally realized that dream in 2017 when we opened Belly of the Beast, an eatery featuring whole-animal, in-house butchery with ingredients sourced from local farms using best practices in raising their crops and animals.

How did you get into cooking and who are your role models?

I’ve loved cooking from an early age! As a young adult, my mentor, Susan Roth, instilled the locavore no-waste side to making food: go to the farmer’s market, get everything you need for the week, come home and cook all day to make food for the week. It was an incredible teaching that I love propelling forward!

Working for Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers in Boston at Flour Bakery and Café was another huge influence. Their discipline, their commitment to settle for nothing less than perfect, and their ability to have so much positivity while holding to such strict standards are unparalleled.

I feel really lucky to have worked for people who care so much about what they do and how they serve the community.

What one of your favorite dishes to make or eat?

Love this question and so hard to answer!! It changes with the seasons. This winter I've been loving making stuffed cabbage, all sorts of beans, and turmeric mac + cheese!

What do you do for fun or for work outside of the kitchen?

I love walking and sometimes do so in the quiet of the middle of the night. A board game day with friends is always appreciated, also a gathering around a fire pit. I love reading, sleeping, and listening to my body.

How are you connected to Western Mass?

We moved back to Boston in 2009 after living in Los Angeles for five years too long. At that moment, we knew we wanted to settle in the Valley given all the incredible farms in the area!

Learn more about Stone Soup Culinary Institute! Our next cohort begins in February!