In between the haute restaurant cultures of New York City and Chicago lies a business in the small town of Huron, Ohio, that is cultivating its own chic food culture through artisanal produce and herbs. From micro greens and herbs to specialty edible flowers, The Chef’s Garden, a sustainable family farm, is luring in top chefs and pastry chefs from across the United States by providing the perfect, aromatic elements for their latest culinary creations.
For over 40 years, The Chef’s Garden has been serving up a unique experience that started with a simple focus on farming and has evolved to accommodate the more specific needs of chefs since the 1980s.
“My family has been involved in farming for five generations. We farmed commercially until we lost the farm in ’83,” said Farmer Lee Jones, co-owner of The Chef’s Garden. “We started over at farmers’ markets and met chefs who asked us to grow some unique items for them. Other chefs learned that we were willing to listen to their needs, and word of mouth spread. They taught us that how you grow is as important as what you grow.”
The Chef’s Garden provides over 600 varieties of specialty vegetables, herbs and micro greens that are produced by “growing vegetables slowly and gently, in full accord with nature.”® The company’s focus on providing exceptional products is also apparent through its sustainable farming techniques that include replenishing the soil and nurturing the produce until it ships, which extends the shelf life and provides the freshest results. The Chef’s Garden also runs a comprehensive food safety program on the farm.
Adding to the compelling story of The Chef’s Garden is the company’s Culinary Vegetable Institute, which opened in 2003 and hosts approximately 500 visiting chefs each year. “Chefs were so excited to begin working with the produce after visiting the farm, so we envisioned a place for culinary development near the farm,” said Jones.
In particular, more and more pastry chefs are finding their way to the Culinary Vegetable Institute and The Chef’s Garden, and for good reason.
“We cater to pastry chefs in the same way that we cater to any chef. We listen to their needs and help them identify an ingredient or garnish that complements and enhances the flavor of their dish. Our Product Specialists can visit the fields and greenhouses at any time to find out what looks spectacular,” says Jones.
Notably popular with pastry chefs is their selection of mints such as their Chocolate Mint, which actually tastes like chocolate, as well as Pineapple Mint, which contains hints of the tropical fruit flavor. However, Farmer Jones says that he is seeing pastry chefs experiment more with unusual herbs like Anise Hyssop, Zesty Lemon Sticks and Root Beer Leaf. “Fresh herbs add a depth of complexity and flavor to the dessert. It allows the chef to go beyond the confines of traditional pastry work and reach into a new world of textures and flavors,” said Jones. Edible flowers and substituting Stevia or Sweet Aztec for sugar are also very popular trends according to Jones.
For pastry chefs, the task of securing theses fine herbs and other fresh ingredients has proven to be a daunting task, especially at a time when herb infusion is a major trend in the dessert industry. The Chef’s Garden is thankfully easing the procurement process and fueling the trend by offering special packaging and different samplers of the herbs to help chefs experiment with new dessert creations.
According to Farmer Jones, “the sky is the limit when it comes to flavor exploration,” and The Chef’s Garden says it will continue to think outside the box, and play with different flavor and produce combinations to inspire the creativity within chefs.
To learn more about The Chef’s Garden, visit www.chefs-garden.com or call 800 289 4644 to speak with a product specialist.