On my way to obtaining a diploma in the Culinary Arts, I am encouraged by just how far-ranging a chef’s work can be. Whether food styling, restaurant reviewing or saucier work is your passion, all show that any culinary career can evolve and change.
At yesterday’s demo, Four-Star Farmer: A Conversation with Chef Eberhard Müller and Alexandra Leaf, ICE students caught a glimpse of yet another seemingly broad transformation within a chef’s career in the case of Chef and Farmer Eberhard Müller. Müller delved into just how he went from dishing out gourmet fare night after night at Le Bernardin and Lutèce to dishing out the freshest, locally grown lettuces, specialty herbs and vegetables from his 180-acre North Fork farm, Satur Farms, with his wife Paulette Satur.
What began as an experiment in supplying his restaurant with locally-sourced, fresh produce turned into a much larger operation in which Müller is now a full-time farmer supplying kitchens like Per Se and Daniel, as well as Whole Foods and Fresh Direct. “If I do something, I want to do it the best way I know how,” Müller commented on making the transition from chef to farmer.
This transition was made easier, said Müller, due to his background as a chef. Without much prior training in the difficult, round-the-clock business of farming, Müller and Paulette did have a clear goal of what they were looking for in their harvesting. Relying on his knowledge of what was missing from the produce available to NYC restaurants, Müller and his wife set out to achieve the most peppery arugula, sweetest turnips and most crisp and flavorful Boston lettuce, along with so many other vegetables. And after sampling the produce last night, picked and washed on Satur Farms that morning, I can tell you that Müller’s perfectionism in the kitchen extends to the farm.
For students without the luxury of a 180-acre farm to source their daily meals, Müller suggests taking advantage of that one little window in your studio apartment and making your own herb garden. Now that Module 1, Lesson 2, has taught me herb identification, I have the knowledge of what any particular herb should taste like so I think I’ll take a cue from Müller and try out my green thumb and shoot for greens that are locally, or at least studio apartment-sourced.