Bocuse d’Or is a biennial cooking competition where 24 teams compete on the world’s culinary stage, proudly demonstrating their exceptional skills. Team USA, supported by Ment’or, represents the United States on this international platform and is both an opportunity for American chefs to showcase their talent and a collaboration with the entire world.
Team USA uses vegetables from The Chef’s Garden, with the Culinary Vegetable Institute serving as the site of this special fundraiser. On September 11, Farmer Lee gave a farm tour to VIP chefs, followed up by drinks served by Charlotte Voisey. Then, everyone celebrated together with a meal prepared by Executive Chef Jamie Simpson, Chefs Mathew Peters, Aaron Bludorn, Junior Borges, Melissa Rodriguez, Robert Sulatycky, and Britt-Marie Culey.
This event was about much more than food, though, or a competition, or famous chefs. This was a moment when we collectively realized how we can truly be proud of our country. About our sense of community. About our commitment to quality. About our successes. About our failures. About how we brush ourselves off, get up again, stand straight, grow and prosper, and become better than ever before.
This was about the United States of America. Team USA.
Spotlight on the Future
As part of our focus on sustainability, we want to be a role model for farmers yet to come. More specifically, we want to “shape and redefine sustainable agriculture in our country by creating a template that will attract, inspire and retain young farmers. Through our own traditional farming practices and philosophy, we hope to encourage the next generation of farmers to value, protect and if necessary, restore America’s farmland in order to ensure that our fields continue to produce the safest, most nutritious and flavorful products possible. We hope that our legacy will be the establishment of a national farming model that ensures safe and sustainable growing practices that serve to protect and enrich the consumer for generations to come.”
Here are just a few ways that we put this philosophy into practice in 2019.
First, we participated in the Edison Works program at a local elementary school. This is a district-wide program that was created to help students succeed and especially helps students who may not end up going to a four-year college. It connects them with area businesses, giving them an opportunity to understand what kind of work takes place at them, including what jobs could be available when it was time for these students to go to work.
We’ve been part of the Edison Works program from the start, adopting the fourth grade in 2019, which consists of three classes with about 30 students per group.
Members of the farm team helped the students to grow two varieties of lettuce, French breakfast radishes, cherry bomb radishes, and pea tendrils, talked to them about photosynthesis in an age-appropriate way, answered their insightful questions and much more. Chef Jamie prepared carrots for them in four different ways, in more than one color, and the group discussed flavor, texture, cooking techniques and more. This spring, the students will tour the farm.
In 2019, we were fortunate to have Robert Lagrosas from the Philippines work on our farm as part of our student internship agricultural program. Robert worked throughout the farm, including seeding, harvesting, soil making, and food safety and packing, as well as at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. Supervisors guided and taught Robert in each area and shared how each task contributed to the overall operations and success of The Chef’s Garden.
We’ve been partnering with Communicating for Agriculture Exchange Programs (CAEP) for more than 20 years now, bringing young adults from all around the world to the farm to share and learn about agricultural practices. The students gain farming knowledge and confidence, experiencing another culture as they prepare for a future in farming in their homeland.
These one-year internships are given to students who are in college, or who have completed it. In 2019, there were actually ten student interns at The Chef’s Garden, from Uganda, Rwanda, Brazil, Philippines, Japan, Tanzania, South Africa, Viet Nam, and Columbia.
Although we’d love to share insights from each of them, for this post, we’ll just include this one from Robert. The keys to future success, he said, is the most important lesson he learned from his mentors at The Chef’s Garden. “With hard work and dedication, surely you will be successful in business and in life,” he said. “Just be resilient, diligent, and focused. I think I can make it a long way.”
Finally, as part of our spotlight on the future, there’s our collaboration with Chef Tim Michitsch, the director at the culinary arts program at the Lorain County Joint Vocational School. In August, his students—led by LCJVS graduate Chef Scott Schneider, Chef de Cuisine at New York’s acclaimed Ai Fiori—prepared an amazing meal at the Culinary Vegetable Institute.
One of the students, Megan Ratha, shared that being able to work alongside professional chefs gave her a unique opportunity to learn and contribute, one she wouldn’t be able to experience in a typical high school setting.
“I helped at Twelve Days of Christmas and they had a whole pig head in the oven,” she said. “It was really interesting to look at! And I helped with one of the desserts. It was origami chips, and we attached them to wood. At points I felt like I was in the way just a little bit, but then other times I’d be useful. And you get to learn how to properly clean stuff and properly store stuff. It’s helpful.”
Grooming future farmers and chefs. It’s just a part of what we do, and we’re grateful for the opportunity.
Honoring the Vegetable of the Year: Mixed Carrots
It wouldn’t make sense to share the highlights of 2019 without mentioning our farm-fresh produce—and, to keep this post from becoming the size of a book, we decided to focus on just one vegetable and let it represent them all.
In December 2018, we named mixed carrots as the vegetable of the year. We chose this vegetable because of its incredible flavor, earthy yet sweet, and because of how the different varieties of carrot offer up subtly differing flavor profiles. Then, there is that crunch! It’s hard to pick a vegetable with a more satisfying chomp.
And, although carrots in the grocery store tend to be largely the same color and shape, at The Chef’s Garden, we have long ones and short ones, round ones and narrow ones, in a wide variety of eye-catching hues. Nutritionists encourage people to eat the rainbow, and you can go a long way in accomplishing that by choosing different colors of carrots as you plan your menus. The versatility is truly incredible.
There are numerous health benefits of carrots and, because they pair so well with other deliciously nutritious produce (peas and carrots, anyone?), you can increase health benefits through flavorful pairings.
To honor our vegetable of the year, Chef Jamie has used it numerous times in 2019, including when he visited the children who are participating in the Edison Works program.
“Each student got four different cups with carrots prepared in a different way,” Jamie says. “Pureed, juiced, pickled, and blanched.”
He also partnered with Executive Chef Jessica Biederman from The Bristol inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, taking farm-fresh carrots and dehydrating them into flour that was used to make pasta dough. Carrot tops were inlaid, along with micro tarragon and viola petals. “The pasta is super thin, so it cooks really fast,” Chef Jessica explained. “It comes out looking like stained glass.”
You can find ways to explore every iteration of the carrot here.
Highlighting Our Evolving Language
Finally, we want to give a shout out to the changing language of responsible farming. You may have noticed how we’re shifting from talking about sustainable farming to that of regenerative farming. What’s fascinating is that we aren’t changing how we actually farm—just the words we use to talk about our practices.
This evolution began in October 2015 when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture was quoted as saying that farmers and other people involved in agriculture should “come up with a single definition of sustainability in order to avoid confusing the public with various meanings of the term in food and production methods.”
Now, we have to admit that we’d been so busy farming in responsible ways that we hadn’t really stopped to examine what the word “sustainable” truly meant—but we’re glad that we have. Here is our deep dive into the differences between sustainable farming versus regenerative farming. As a short summary:
“Sustainable” implies a focus on keeping the ecosystem stable, to keep all as it exists right now.
“Regenerative” goes beyond that, to making soil even healthier than it was before—and that’s been our focus for several decades. It’s just that, before 2019, this wasn’t the word we used.
We’re happy to see how the concept of regenerative farming is trending, and you can find more information about how we use regenerative agricultural practices. They’ve been defined as a “holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.”
At The Chef’s Garden, we are deeply dedicated to growing vegetables slowly and gently, in full accord with nature. One of the key components of our regenerative farming practices is the use of cover crops, maximizing their effectiveness by:
rotating where they’re planted
consistently and repeatedly planting them
planting a diverse mix of cover crops
harvesting and saving cover crop seeds for successive plantings
And we do so slowly and gently, in full accord with nature.
Happy New Year!
We hope that 2019 was all that you’d hoped it would be—and we wish you a happy, healthy, regenerative 2020!