With the growing emphasis being placed on where our food comes from, and how it is produced, restaurant chefs are also getting more involved in their own supply line. How chefs are helping farmers, and how you can help the chefs, were today’s topic on Food Matters.
It seems a given that chefs would care about the quality of ingredients and where they come from, but it’s not always that way. There is a huge range of involvement on the part of chefs and cooks and their ingredients. It goes all the way from chefs who have their own small farms or gardens to supply their kitchens, to chefs who have active relationships with local farmers and ranchers and fishes, to larger food service operations where all the ingredients come delivered by one truck and there isn’t as much care and attention paid to the source of the ingredients, which could be from down the road or could be from thousands of miles away. But take the case of American Chef Thomas Keller and Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Spain, who have created quite a case of indigestion for ‘farm to fork’ fans. Keller is known for his famous French Laundry restaurant in California and Per Se in New York City. And here’s how the New York Times recently described Aduriz:
“He is a pioneer in culinary aesthetics, using taste and technology to create potatoes coated in edible clay that look like just-dug stones; salads like snowfalls; and desserts that evoke dustings of pollen or skeins of frogs’ eggs.”
But what he and Keller said about the current trend of chefs knowing and supporting their farmers is making some people choke. In an interview with the Times, Aduriz said he likes to use local ingredients,
“But to align yourself entirely with the idea of sustainability makes chefs complacent and limited.” Keller said, “With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint? The world’s governments should be worrying about carbon footprint.”
You should see some of the responses I’ve seen on Facebook from chefs I know. And there is also this response from from Twilight Greenaway on grist.org. When I think of restaurants like Locals, in Courtenay, where Chef Ronald St. Pierre has portraits of his farmers and their ingredients on the walls and a rack full of business cards at the front door so you can enjoy the same quality of ingredients he does…well, there’s just no question about how important chefs are in the local food chain. Which brings me to the Island Chefs Food Fest coming up on June Tenth at Fort Rodd Hill, which is not that far away.
This is the fifth anniversary of the food fest, it’s a big fundraiser for the Island Chefs Collaborative, and in the past the money has been used to help farmers purchase things like deer fencing and irrigation systems, the kind of capital investments that farmers can’t always afford, but when they do get something like that it really helps them increase their production and in turn their bottom line. Now the ICC is doing something different. This year they have a new zero-interest micro loan fund for farmers and processors – with over $100,000 to give away. The aim of the fund is to provide a pool of funds for growers, harvesters and processors to invest in equipment and materials that allows them to increase the supply of food in the region. Some of the projects being considered for loans right now include: funds for an oil processing facility on Salt Spring, a delivery vehicle for an urban farmer, and for a dairy transitioning to cheese production in the Cowichan Valley. So, get your tickets for the Food Fest and while you’re there think about the contribution the chefs and YOU are making to a better food life here on Vancouver Island.
The theme this year? Expect lots of street-style food using ingredients that we tend to discard or disregard because we don’t know what they taste like or how to cook them. So, I kind of rummaged about in my repertoire of odd bits and came up with a few dishes to help host Jo-Ann Roberts get in the mood, like chicken liver pate, grilled chipotle-lime flank steak and bacon fat cookies!.
The Contest Part: Think about the most delicious street food you’ve ever had. Scroll down to the comments section and tell me about your favourite street food from anywhere in the world. We’ll pick a winner who will get two tickets to the Island Chefs Food Fest on June the tenth. Your deadline to enter is 11am, Wednesday, May 30th.