I’ve been working as a chef for the past 11 years in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and New York City, so needless to say I have always worked with food and have, especially in recent years, been an avid proponent of the local and sustainable food movement, which, to me, is the only logical way to buy, prepare and serve food. I am in the process of planning a year long sabbatical, for lack of a better term; a year of working to learn, a year to work with the aim of acquiring a whole new skill set that still applies directly to my path of being a chef, but opens up ideas and perspectives that you forget exist after you’ve spend years in living in large cities, stuck in a small and confined space, cooking great food for people on the other side of a wall.
I would always have direct contact with vegetables, meat and fish and all the other products that came into the restaurant, but only insomuch that I would purchase it from reputable sources, prepare it myself, always getting involved in everything that came through the door, and then serving it with love and care. But the relationship started and ended at the door to my kitchen. I, of course, understood where it all comes from. I read and research, I would meet farmers when they would come into the restaurant or at the local farmers markets, and I would ask questions of my purveyors, but I am still suffering from a fundamental lack of knowledge; the actual experience of producing, growing and raising the products that I have been working with and manipulating into extraordinary food for years and years. The knowledge that comes from mud under your fingernails and a sore back; from total immersion, hard work and a passion to learn.
So what to do about this? Well, what I want to do is take the next year to work on a small family farm, going through all the seasons and learn every aspect of working on a farm, from planting seeds, weeding, feeding livestock, foraging wild edibles, fixing fences and machinery. From gathering firewood to tapping maple trees for sap. My ultimate goal is to have a fundamental, if still basic, understanding of how a farm operates, how to potentially live a self sufficient lifestyle, or even how to start a small farm of my own.
I will document the whole experience here, on this blog, in the hopes that I can teach and excite others through my experience and maybe even inspire some to follow in my footsteps. Here's to returning to our roots, to getting out hands dirty, to reaping what we sow in the most honest way. See you on the farm...