In October 2012, during her first year at Eat Retreat, Heather Marold Thomason taught her fellow participants how to kill a chicken. Early in the morning, she led the group to an outbuilding on a Northern California farm and demonstrated the art of butchery, encouraging everyone who could summon the courage to get involved.
Established in 2011 by Kathryn Tomajan, 35, and two other friends, Eat Retreat is an annual three-day "summer camp for foodies" that brings together food writers, chefs, and other members of the culinary community for workshops, meals, and networking. "I want to bring people from all different areas of the food world and let them spend time together and cross-pollinate," Tomajan says of the retreats.
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Inside the outbuilding on that October morning, Thomason showed the near 25 attendees, many of whom had never encountered a live chicken before, the basics of cutting off the bird's head and cleaning out its insides. That night, the Eat Retreat participants on kitchen duty roasted the chickens and served them at dinner. As culinary pros, the diners even appreciated the feet as a delicacy.