I have great respect for chefs. The chef, working in extreme heat, damp and conditions that involve sharp blades, takes raw food and does away with all of the blood, bone and dirt to give us something amazing. I’ve always been a little puzzled as to why we have a growing literature on farming and farmers, and relatively few academic accounts of what goes on in the professional kitchen. This could have to do with the hours chef keep, or the academic’s fear of sharp objects, but I feel it is a shame; the chef has a key role to play in reconnecting people to their food system, as chefs have the skills needed to transform raw food into something we can actually eat, and they can teach us how to achieve this magic at home.
I’m therefore a huge fan of chef in the market demos, as they help explain to the public what to actually do with all of the lovely food the farmers are offering. My first experience with such a program was at the superb Ferry Building Market in San Francisco. It was rainy and foggy (surprise!) and so market traffic was light, and so I had the chance to ask Laura Werlin, the Queen of Grilled Cheese, why my sandwiches lacked a certain something. She was happy to point me in the right direction, although my sandwiches still don’t quite taste like hers, perhaps because I am afraid of using industrial quantities of butter. I’ve long felt Vancouver could use a chef in the market program, and so I was thrilled to attend the shiny new “Farmer’s market kitchen” offering at Trout Lake.
The rain held off, and a good crowd was on hand to see Chef Ned Bell, executive chef at the Four Season’s YEW, take the mike and demo a simple tomato soup and some wonderful pickle garnishes featuring market fresh cucumbers and cherries. The cherries are extremely good this year, and we are just coming into tomato season.
I haven’t tried to recreate his full recipe yet, but I gave his method of blistering red peppers over the gas range a go, and it made the kitchen smell great and I escaped without a fire, so that’s a reasonable first step. Ned has a great teaching personality; it is easy to see why he does well on TV. The farmer’s market kitchen is a great addition to the Vancouver food scene, and hopefully one that will enjoy a long and healthy life.