Bartering with knowledge- A week of springtime inspiration.

Finally the bees are out, looking for the first signs of spring as I know I have been…Today was a fitting end to one of the most inspiring weeks of 2014. The week was filled with great company, inspiring food and a huge spectrum of learning. Passionate cooks recognize the real beauty of this career-enjoying what you do every single day of your working life, and the opportunity to learn something from everyone. Opportunity is they key-we have the often occurrence to meet like minded and ambitious people all the time. Clients, cooks, dishwashers and friends-once you are humble enough to realize the knowledge in experience of others, the world really opens up to you.

So I enjoyed the company of a family I got to know through the school program salad bar at Tuc El Nuit Elementary. One of the parent volunteers inquired about whether I was interested in a whole animal butchery class. As this is one of my true passions, I jumped at the chance to share my love of whole animal butchery. If this wasn’t reason enough, the ideology behind teaching a family of interested foodies the practice of tip to tail eating was a bonus. They raise chickens, goats and sheep-and do it for the simple interest of knowing where their food comes from. Truly inspiring for me, and they are genuinely nice people as well. I ordered two 80 pound pigs from my friend Jason at Two River’s Meats. They were non medicated, super fresh and whole with the heads on. The class consisted of the seven of us putting forth our collective efforts to debone, trim and portion every cut of these responsibly raised pigs. All of the roasts were tied, all of the prime cuts were cleaned up and vacuum sealed-and we even made time for a sausage farce which turned into dinner for them after the 6 hour butchery crash course. I took care of the first half of the first pig, offering my thoughts on what would be the ideal way to process the rest. Everyone “got their hands dirty”, and the chef cave was filled with the energy of food empowerment. It was amazing how fast time went by…….The family  had a lamb who was born uncommonly late last season, he was one of their first lambs on the property. Our first conversation involved an opportunity for me to be a part of the harvest. I was honored with their decision to allow me to have the lamb as thanks for offering them a bit of knowledge to enable them to be confidently independent in regards to the meat they eat in their home. I admire their dedication to healthy, local eating and it was truly one of the most inspiring moments in my career as a chef. I have decided to not post the lamb harvesting photos, as I do believe everyone should have a choice to see such a process. I do however, feel the nature of the butchery class photos show how engaged we all were in sharing the experience. I will warn you that the photos include the pigs we respectfully harvested, and may be considered graphic to some….

IMG_0776

IMG_0778

IMG_0768

 

They left with a freezer full of non-medicated pork, and hopefully an experience that will help them in their dedication to sustainable living. It was tons of fun for me. Thanks Benita, Graham, Gordon, Niki, Neil and Brandt for a very engaging afternoon of butchery.

I also got the opportunity to have an extra set of hands in the kitchen prepping for the kids this week. Justin Paakkunainen, chef at Walnut Beach Resort gave me a call offering an afternoon to help out. We got the chance to swap a few kitchen stories which always leads to a laugh or two. I thoroughly appreciated the help, and the kids really appreciated his Braised Heritage Angus Beef Chili. We had lots of little minds come up for seconds this week-nice job Justin! We both agreed that cooking for kids is an interesting paradox from the average guest-but an awesome way to expand on our collective kitchen experience

 

IMG_0660

 

IMG_0656

So the kids were rather pleased with the gala apple braised pulled pork, baby nugget potato salad the first day on artisan culinary sourdough buns……Then they got even more VIP with Chef Justin’s Braised Beef Chili. Lucky kids already, and Mikkel made some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies-they were offered with a second guest appearance by Tracy from Great Bear Patties……

IMG_0657

The week was winding to a close as it goes, and Thursday ended with a cooking class for a book club in Kaleden. A fun loving group of ladies, some great conversation and not a whole lot of book reviewing honestly…. Great kitchen to cook in, some of my favorite recipes for approachable appetizers for entertaining. Made for a fun evening for sure! Big thanks to Audrey for hosting me in the kitchen, and letting me have my way with her kitchen gadgets….

As I stated earlier, I will not post the lamb harvest. I would be eager to share the story and photos with those who may be interested. It is really important to thank my good friend Lionel for his guidance today. In order to maintain the integrity of the process, it would only make sense to have an expert food lover and avid hunter do the most sensitive part of it. It was my honor to have Lionel   show me the most humane and respectful way to end the lamb’s life. It was far from a comforting experience, but I really feel that it is my responsibility to be witness to it-in order to fully appreciate this meat, it was time for me to respect the life surrendered for the cause of a few healthy, passionately prepared meals for my family and friends. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

And as I sip a glass of red wine, reflecting on the past week, the drywall board has been hung. tomorrow the taping and mudding will commence-it is amazing to see the drastic transition form when we started the renos in January until now. Hoping to spend Spring Break painting my heart out, and starting the finishing tasks. Can’t tell you how excited I am…….

Cheers to all those who share joy in the simple pleasures of cooking in, and for great company.

Chris