Thursday, February 18, 2010

Earth to Table visits the urban element!


Last week I had the chance to meet with Chefs Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann, the authors of Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. You may remember this book from my earlier post highlighting its photographer, Edward Pond.

Jeff and Bettina were in town to promote their book, and to put on a private dinner for 20 people at the urban element here in Ottawa. The following is the result of our chat about seasonal cooking in winter, the menu they were preparing and their future Earth to Table plans:

After the Harvest (ATH): Can you describe your book for those who are not familiar with it?

Jeff Crump: The book is called Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. It's basically a year's relationship between a restaurant and a farm -- our restaurant, and the farm is called ManoRun Organic Farm, just outside of Hamilton. It's a year where Bettina and I tried to discover where our food came from. We worked on the farm -- planted, harvested and cooked the food.

braised short ribs with apple parsnip puree

ATH: What are you doing here at the urban element?

Bettina Schormann: Tonight we're cooking a dinner for a group of 20 people. The menu is going to be charcuterie, which we made at the restaurant (it's one of the things that we do fairly regularly); also sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and fried sage. We're also doing braised short ribs with apple parsnip puree, and then sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

gorgeous sticky toffee pudding

ATH: Do you find it difficult to cook seasonally in the winter months?

Bettina: We try to embrace the winter and not see it as a wasteland. We acknowledge the fact that you have to be a little bit more creative. Jeff always talks about changing your cooking methods and getting pieces of meat that cook a little bit longer. Root vegetables are your staple but you can cook them in different ways, for example the apple parsnip puree.

Jeff: Wintertime is a time for us to actually cook. In the summer and the spring, it's really light salads and grilling -- the food is so fresh and ripe then that you really don't want to do too much to it. In the winter we want to make braises and soups, stews and purees. Actually, I look forward to the winter so that we can apply skill to the food that we have and cook some very interesting food. I love the wintertime. It's right around March and April where we sort of enter "root vegetable hell".

Bettina: We get a little itchy waiting for the first signs of spring. But that happens in the summer too, you can have too much of one ingredient.

ATH: What's next for you after the book tour?

Jeff: We're opening a bakery right now -- we're working on construction, design and menu planning, so that's going to be Bettina's bakery. This is actually going to be the second Earth to Table project, the bakery is going to be called Earth to Table: Bread Bar, so it's an extension of the book.

Bettina: One of our plans is to make everything on site and engage our other two restaurants, The Ancaster Old Mill and Spencer's at the Waterfront, so we'll be able to supply them with finished products: breads and pizza dough to start, and then we hope to turn it into a commissary kitchen for the other locations. We feel that's very important. We're not buying anything in anymore, we're going to be making everything on site.

I can almost smell the bread baking now -- and I have to admit, I'm starting to warm up to winter cooking a bit more after this chat! Many thanks to Jeff and Bettina for their time, as well as Carley from the urban element.
*Food photos courtesy of the urban element, Earth to Table book photo courtesy of Edward Pond, Chef photos via Earth to Table

1 comment:

  1. Aren't Chefs Crump and Schormann amazing to talk to? I actually attended that event with camera in hand. The event utterly destroyed my restaurant budget for the month, but it was so worth it!

    Loved the book too!

    Guess I should get a move on putting up that blog post eh?