The farm to table movement needs to squeeze in just one more word — chef — so it would then read “farm to chef to table”. Nothing embodies that more than the recent Farmer/Chef Relationship Building Workshop held at Restaurant North in Armonk. On a cold winter afternoon Spring was in the air as a group of chefs and farmers met to network and talk about ways to forge relationships and support each others businesses. It’s such a natural really — the perfect symbiotic relationship — the famer grows it, the chefs cook it and serve it to us, the customers. It makes total sense.
The workshop, which had standing room only, was sponsored by Slow Food Metro North (represented by Mimi Edelman of I & Me Farm) and the Chef’s Association of Westchester and Lower Connecticut. Slow Food, in case you’re not up with the latest in sustainable food movements is basically an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. Its about food that is good, clean, and fair. It is a global, grassroots movement with members in over 150 countries which links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Slow Food Metro North is our local chapter serving the counties of Westchester and Putnam, NY and Fairfield, CT.
In the workshop farmers had information tables set up, some like Amba Farms actually had greens sprouting to taste. Others had samples of local cheeses, organic grains, coffee and garlic. We are so fortunate in our area to be surrounded by such bounty. Michael Murray, Bedford Post Chef and Chairman of the Chef Association of Westchester and Lower Connecticut led the panel discussion about ways that farmers and chefs could work together and support each other. Other chefs/owners on the panel included Eric Gabrynowicz and Stephen Mancini of Restaurant North, and Dave Starkey of Sweet Grass Grill and Tomatillo. The conversation and questions were lively as farms were seeking to learn more about restaurants needs and the chefs told stories about their own experiences with farmers. Some very funny stories were told, such as the time one of the chefs came across a Hubbard squash somewhere and asked one of the farmers about growing it. The farmer enthusiastically grew it the following season — enthusiastically to the tune of an entire row full! This became a kind of joke because it just wasn’t possible for the restaurant to use quite that much squash! But funny stories aside, this meeting and the topics discussed are an integral part of helping to bring the communities of farmers and restaurants and to that end, we all benefit. It was very reassuring to hear that farms in the Hudson Valley are growing, expanding and diversifying. There’s no doubt that relationships between farmers, restaurants and us, the people who care about the food they eat help add to this growth.
Visit Slow Food Metro North to learn more about Slow Food http://www.slowfoodmetronorth.com/. There’s a wealth of information, events, volunteer opportunities. Another great resource is Hudson Valley Bounty http://www.hudsonvalleybounty.com/ which is a database of farms and farm products throughout Hudson Valley.
So the next time you go out to eat in a farm to table restaurant, in addition to singing the well deserved praises of the chef, think about the farmers who had a hand (literally) in bringing the dish to its current state of delicious — plant by beautiful plant.