When chefs visit us on the farm, we always keep our ears wide open for the wisdom and insight they provide us during these trips. This synergy between the chef and farmer sometimes so inspires us that we end up naming a product after them and it in turn serves to perpetually remind us of how critical our relationships are to the chefs we serve.
Such is the case with our Memo Chives, an ingredient inspired by a visit from our good friend Chef Guillermo Tellez who worked with our dear friend Chef Charlie Trotter for years before venturing out on his own to make a mark for himself in the culinary world.
We will never forget the moment of serendipity that we shared with Chef Tellez during his visit to the farm. We were fortunate enough to discuss it with our longtime friend who we were happy to discover shares the same fondness for the a-ha moment we experienced so many years ago.
Many years ago, I visited the farm because I'm always interested in learning how they do things and it's a learning experience each and every time. While I was at The Chef's Garden, we went on a tour to see the greenhouses to learn about how the seeds are cultivated. I was tasting a lot of greens throughout the tour and their freshness and flavors were incredible.
When we reached the greenhouse where the herbal seeds were planted, I noticed those that were just starting to grow. They were about 1 to 2 inches long and I started to taste all of them. I liked them even more that the fully mature herbs because the flavors were more intense and sweet. Farmer Lee explained that this was the first step in their cultivation and that the next step was to transplant them to the ground soil to enable them to fully mature.
I was working for Charlie Trotter at the time and talked to Farmer Lee about the possibility of us buying the shoots from the trays instead of the herbs that had reached full maturity. He agreed to ship them to the restaurant and when I arrived in Chicago, I was pumped about the arrival of these exciting new ingredients.
I explained the idea to Chef Trotter and he became as excited as I was, “Let’s get them for our next James Beard event,” he exclaimed. We always had the a-list of great chefs from around the country and world visiting to participate in our events and after that Beard event where we showcased micro-herbs from the farm, the chefs liked what they were seeing and tasting and asked us where they were sourced from.
From that moment on, I visited the farm more often, discussing with Lee what we needed and fine tuning the products to fit our needs. We focused on size and flavor, tasting the shoots at different stages to find just the right size and flavor profile for the restaurant.
Soon, I was getting calls from chefs to find out more about the micro-greens we were serving at the restaurant and Lee started receiving calls from chefs around the world asking the same. What I admire the most about The Chef's Garden is that the farm never compromises on quality, they are always looking for ways to make their products better. That is the key to a successful operation.
This chive is special to me because it has the look, the flavor and the size that will complement a dish perfectly. The little helmet on the top gives that extra flavor note that lingers in the mouth and makes you wonder if it is a garlic or onion. It lingers in a subtle yet pronounced way.
That was my nickname growing up. It's short for Guillermo and it's also because I am unpredictable.
I like to use them as a finishing item, raw at the end of the plating, not only for their looks but for that extra flavor enhancer.
I started at the restaurant working with Chef Trotter as a line cook with the ambition of someday become his sous chef. He was the chef that I looked up to, a mentor that gave me an opportunity to succeed. He allowed me to learn every station until I mastered it, which enabled me to continue to keep moving to the next challenge.
He was always encouraging me to see the big picture, not just the immediate tasks in front of me. He set me up with opportunities that perhaps no one else would have presented to me. It was challenging but with dedication and hard work I was able to become his right hand man and rise to all of his challenges,. It eventually became a fun process and it's now a way of life for me. I loved working with him on his cookbooks, the movie, the tv show, the restaurants in Las Vegas, Los Cabos, and on Trotters To-Go.
Chef Charlie Trotter’s was my mentor and I will forever carry his legacy of excellence with dignity and pride.
I like working with the farm because of their innovation the constant evolution and the will to go the distance to make sure that the quality is never compromised.
The hospitality is second to none. The Jones always makes you feel like you are a part of the family. The meals in their private home are the best I've ever had. Everything is so fresh and delicious. The people on the farm always take the time to answer any questions and to show you everything that they are so proud of growing.