What is your favorite thing to cook? Where did you go to school? Can I get the recipe? How long have you been cooking? How long have you been at Evins Mill?
These are some of the many questions I am asked on almost a daily basis. Chef small talk is fun, and I love meeting guests and finding that common ground that binds us all together - FOOD. Well, after cooking for a number of years - 20 as of this summer - I have come up with a question of my own that I do not believe I've been asked by a guest. I am not sure that I have asked it myself until recently - Where do I find my inspiration to create and keep cooking?
Creating new or recreating old dishes has always just kind of happened for me, but maybe the natural aging process has caused me to ponder an answer deeper than the surface. I think it has been an evolving answer over the course of my career, but I have certainly found the muse these days in a love for the food itself. Not the finished dishes - I am talking of food in the purest form.
Knowing the food personally from as early in its life as possible. Like noticing the tiniest green tomato after the bloom has fallen and watching it grow and then using it on a salad. Or the breed of chicken that laid the green egg that made such a brilliant yellow creme brulee. Or that the pork chop I just grilled was taken from a pig down the road that was selected just for me. That personal relationship with the food holds me to a higher standard. I want to prepare that food the way it would have prepared itself if it could.
I have always joked with the staff when a guest wants to know the secret ingredient I used in a certain dish - tell them it's love I say. Well, maybe there is more truth in that than I realized.
The inspiration for writing this blog was not so that I could answer my own questions but to show some love for our newest partner in our Farm to Table adventure. Wedge Oak Farm is located in Lebanon, Tennessee and has provided us with the best pork loin money can buy, as well as Poussin, spring chickens that are as perfect in size as they are in flavor. I knew we were in for a treat when I met with Karen a couple of months ago to discuss logistics.
I love her approach to not having loads of items in the freezer waiting for us to order. We send an email to let her know what we want and she looks out at the farm and decides which animals are ready to go. Next thing you know we are serving farm fresh meat for dinner. That is all the inspiration I need to get the creative juices flowing. We featured these two items along with French wines recently at one of our wine tasting events. I must say that the Tennessee meats paired well and might have even stole the show.
Anyone familiar with Allen Benton of Benton's Bacon will also be interested to hear that he has dubbed Karen's pork chop as the best. If any one opinion of pork should be respected, it is Allen's. I was also interested to learn that Wedge Oak is one of the suppliers of pork to Benton's. So nice to be part of a smaller food chain!
If you would like to learn more about Wedge Oak Farm and their line of products, just check out their blog. My hat is off to Karen and Wedge Oak Farm. Thank you for inspiring me, and here's to many delicious, creative dinners ahead at Evins Mill.