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The Journey of the Culinary Backyard

Culinary Backyard
I like most chefs are always fascinated by culture and cuisines from all around the world. We have this ever growing desire to find the newest, latest trend in the culinary field and yearning to find those trends takes us to a variety of cultures. One area we should not over look is our own backyard. When we set our sights on visionary cuisine we should recognize we might have the perfect nosh of flavor right in our backyard.

One of the trends I have been tantalized by is the “snout to tail” trend. As a hunter I get the usage of the whole animal and understanding the importance of the kill and what we eat and how important it is to utilize what we hunt. This is important for domestic raised livestock as well. Using the whole animal, including offal, will not only show respect for the animal in providing us food but allow us to show off our skills. The restaurant that can use trotters, intestine and the pigs head can offer a very unique menu. Bringing to the table unique dining experiences filled with anticipation of flavor, and olfactory delight will create a stir of excitement throughout the dining room.

Our backyards hold more than just swing sets of old; today we have fruit trees, gardens and herbs replacing the sandbox of yesterday. When we explore our options for our menus looking to the local market can produce a wide variety of appurtenances of foods. Ignoring the possibilities and picking up the phone might be ignoring a greater depth of our culinary skills. Of all the cuisines in the world, my all time favorite is not classified as a cuisine in the classical sense, but cooking with fresh foods is by far the greatest experience any chef can experience. Walking into the farmers market is like a child walking into the toy store with a wad of money in hand, “…what to buy!” My eyes may wander to view the fresh greens, dusted with a spray of water shimmering, or the variety of potatoes with the different colors as I walk into the market. The smell of fresh produce exuberates throughout and I am anxious to touch or smell the product. The mind is now thinking of sauté char, roasted tomatoes or sunchoke puree and what great proteins will pair with these ingredients.

The point is we need to be cognizant of what we have and provide for our guest the great products found in our area. Imagine going to New England and not having a clam bake on the ocean? Is that really what you imagined? How about going to Memphis and not eating barbecue? You see what you have to offer in your own neighborhood may not have received the recognition of the clam bake or the barbecue, or has it and you are not aware? In Wisconsin I can state it clearly, cheese, and not just any cheese but some of the world’s greatest artisanal cheese. How many places in the world can you walk into a cheese store and purchase 10 to 15 year old cheddar? Do you know what real aged cheddar taste like? Have you ever tasted the crystals in aged cheddar; did you know good cheddar crumbles and is not rubbery?

Our culinary program every year takes the second year students to the farmers market. We go on a Saturday morning, make our purchases, and bring the product back to school and Monday morning we write our menu for the week. Obtaining knowledge on what to purchase at this time of the year and understanding the difficulty to writing a menu in the depths of March and April in Wisconsin can be difficult. It is also important that the menus they write and execute are consistent to the quality and expectations of a Gourmet restaurant. They are challenged to take a piece of frozen bison or frozen pork butt and reproduce a meal to be remembered! In the end they have gained a knowledge that will serve them well today and throughout their life. When was the last time you went to the market Chef?

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Comment by Paul Short on May 6, 2011 at 10:02am
Loren, My favorite visitors to my restaurant were the farmers! They would show up at the back door and have sacks full of product; I was like a kid in a candy store when I would pick through everything! They would bring me the best their farms or gardens had to offer and the best part was creating new exciting menu ideas from those items.
Comment by Loren Lippitt C.E.C. on May 5, 2011 at 7:13pm

When working resorts here in the Midwest I always cultivated my relationships with the local farmers and I'll be darned if they didn't put me high on their list of stops when they had produce to sell.

One lady I had known for years remarked when I asked her about retirement "Well we DID sell the big farm but we still work the small one" I asked and how much land is the small farm? She replied 600 acres!! I was a bit slackjawed and I never asked the size of the big farm.

The joys of being in the Midwest!

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