The work of a farmer and the work of a chef are not that different. We are both striving to bring good food to a table, and the parallels between the two jobs are many—long hours, a team of hardworking helpers, finding the best quality raw materials and having the right equipment. Taste is the end result, and just as a chef needs to constantly taste a recipe as it develops, a farmer must always be concerned with the taste of the food that is growing.
I am fortunate to know some chefs who also grow food, but I also know a former chef who is now a full time farmer. This week, I will introduce you to Eberhard Müller who for thirty years worked as a professional chef. He even worked at Le Bernardin, some share the same high standards when it comes to ingredient. His years of cooking inspired him to be interested in where the food comes from and eventually, he left the professional kitchen to take on full time farming.
Satur Farms is a gorgeous vegetable farm on the North Fork of Long Island, just an hour and a half away from New York City. Focusing on lettuces and greens, Eberhard grows exquisite herbs, microgreens, edible flowers, arugula, bok choi, butterhead lettuce, mache and the like, but also beets, turnips and radishes. His farm is situated very close to the Long Island Sound, and Eberhard is convinced that the climate created by being so close to a large body of water and the salt air coaxes intense flavor from the vegetables. It is his appreciation for taste, stemming from his work as a chef that makes him such a good farmer and his produce is sold in the best markets and used in some of New York’s finest restaurants.
Very detailed attention to taste is essential in the restaurant kitchen. If the products used in a recipe are not the very best, and don’t reflect the true flavor profile of that product, then the recipe will suffer. Back at Le Bernardin in New York, Chef de Cuisine, Chris Muller and Executive Sous Chef Eric Gestel will join me for a chef’s tasting of some caviar. We receive shipments of special ingredients like caviar each day, but like all other fresh ingredients, the flavor profiles can change with each batch. Artisanal ingredients are delicate and their slight changes can be what make them special, but if we are highlighting them on the plate, we need to be sure that they are consistent and that they meet our standards. All of the cooks in our kitchen are taught to constantly taste what is being served so that we have a good understanding of how all the flavors come together and to make sure we are delivering the best plate of food to the table.
Tasting is important to being a good home cook as well. Seeking out and preparing the most delicious ingredients for a recipe is part of what makes cooking interesting and also what helps us to constantly learn and grow as cooks. At home, I will show you the method of caring for delicate vegetables that will be used in a special salad. Each ingredient should stand out but also work well together. Combining flavors in a thoughtful way, and having respect for the individual products and where they come from is the result of cultivated taste.