It’s a dream for most chefs to have the opportunity to work directly with farmers, cook with the freshest of ingredients, and through these close relationships to be able understand the intricacy of our food production systems. I can attest to that because, being a Brooklyn born native, my exposure to farms and growers was almost non-existent; besides the seldom elementary school field trips. The fondest of my childhood memories took place in the kitchen, where I spent most of my time growing up and helping out with my family’s small modest restaurant over the summer in England. The disparity between these early culinary experiences during my summers spent in the UK and the majority of my time living in New York impressed me. Over the years, my fascination and focus on how we think and consume as a society has become a focal point in the message I send and in the way I prepare, cook, and serve my food.
My time spent at Marble House Project as a Chef in Residence, has allowed me to further my thoughts as to how I would be able to intertwine the concept and practice(s) of sustainability in the art of cooking in the modern age of food production and sourcing. Working with Chef Paul of the Marble West Inn, we were able to establish relationships with local farmers here in Vermont: Rich & Cynthia (Larson Farm), Ian (Mushroom Forager), Mike & Hadley (Pink Boots), Kim (Tall Cat Coffee), and our very own in house farmers Tina & Jonathan at Marble House Project. Our encounters have lead us to gather an in depth understanding of their production processes, related hurdles and hardship of their businesses, and the underutilized by- products of their commodities. With this new-found knowledge in hand, I was able to challenge my creative process by limiting myself to the local ingredients and their by products that were available. These constraints required me to adapt techniques and use flavor profiles of the local ingredients to help mimic or substitute ingredients that I would have originally used for my cuisine if I were cooking in New York.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure how this experience would turn out nor did I anticipate the influence that it would have on my culinary process. I found that my willingness to free-fall, the hardest thing to do for most chefs, has allowed me to push the barriers of creativity, while working within the constraints of our geography and community. As a chef and social entrepreneur, it is important to me to understand the responsibility we hold as influencers and educators on food and community. This residency has allowed me the opportunity to live the chef’s dream of working directly with our local producers, while reviving the bond between farmer and chef. The survival of our individual art is highly dependent on the continuous conversation and interaction between these respective trades. As the organizer of Marble House Project's Chef Residency Program, I am hopeful that myself and future Chef residents will take this experience with them and allow this influence to be reflected in their creative practice and art of cooking beyond Southern Vermont. I want to thank the staff at Marble House Project and The Marble West Inn for your cooperation. This would not have been possible without your contributions.
Edited by Emma Heaney, fellow MHP Art Resident in Literature