So, what should we do? At The Chef’s Garden, we aren’t joking when we say we grow our vegetables “slowly and gently, in full accord with Nature.” That’s because we’d rather hold hands with Nature than wrestle with her.
Farmer Lee Jones says pairing chefs’ wishes with Nature’s whims relies on delicate choreography.
“We let Mother Nature dictate. We can’t outsmart her,” he says.
Think of it as a dance. A tango, let’s say.
If one partner pulls or pushes too hard, or follows the steps of a foxtrot, the dance is awkward and stumbling, stripped of all elegance and grace.
But when everything is timed perfectly and the dancers glide in flawless synchrony, it’s almost magical.
Meeting chefs’ needs is paramount at The Chef’s Garden. It’s where it all began. An elbow to elbow working relationship between chef and farmer, and farmer and Nature requires finding the right rhythm for all three.
When one fresh vegetable is at its peak, standing tall and strong, another is exhausted from a full season of bearing fruit. Others rest cradled inside Mother Earth ─ tender green babies still gestating, yet to break through the soil. Some are still seeds, chock full of enormous potential, yet small enough to balance on the head of a pin.
Think of our chefs’ kitchens as the dance floors – the space where chefs can explore and find the balance between their wants and needs, and which of Nature’s offerings are likely to be as close to perfect as can be.
That’s why Farmer Lee likes to get chefs out in the fields, hands in the soil, so they can experience Nature’s magic face to face and taste perfection for themselves.
“It’s important for us to communicate with chefs when the stuff is perfect,” Farmer Lee says.
“It’s like driving down a country road and seeing a picnic table full of tomatoes and a box that says ‘serve yourself,’ and the tomatoes are dead ripe,” he mused. “There’s nothing better than that.” Getting the farmer in the kitchen is every bit as important, he says.
“It’s how we identify chefs’ needs for a menu, so we can look ahead and plan and prepare,” he said. “We need to know so we can earmark the land and have it ready ahead of time.”
Eating with the seasons, or seasonal eating, is not rocket science. It’s how our great grandparents did things. If they’d known we’d be eating strawberries and tomatoes in the dead of winter, they’d call us plum crazy.
What did they do?
They planted gardens and tended them. When the peas were up, they ate peas. When the tomatoes were ripe, they ate tomatoes. Cucumbers, beans, lettuce, squash, Carrots, onions, radishes, asparagus, rhubarb, beets, potatoes, each in their own seasons.
Whether the garden was theirs or their neighbor’s, they shared what they grew with one another, and they knew the faces and the names of exactly who grew their food and where they grew it.
That’s why The Chef’s Garden has a face. Two faces actually. One is a farmer. One is a chef. We happen to think the two go together like peas and carrots. The garden is ours, and the garden is theirs.
That’s why it’s in our name. Someday we’ll be great grandparents. What will future generations see when they look back at us?
Will they see the soil and the seed?
Will they see the farmer who tended both with loving care?
Will they see the rich variety of flavors and colors and aromas and textures the farmer coaxed from the Earth?
Will they see farmers and chefs who collaborated with Nature, or who intimidate her with careless disregard?
Will they see machines, or will they see hands harvesting their food?
Will they see chefs who cared and handled the fruit of the farmer’s diligence with respect and responsibility?
Will they see chefs and farmers who knew one another’s names and faces, and who worked in close communion with one another?
Or won’t they?
Will they witness the magic and rhythm of the dance?
Or will they call us plum crazy?