Chef Phil West, who recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of his San Francisco restaurant Range, has a reputation for turning simple ingredients into palatable works of art. He is just as excited about partnering with Fifth Crow Farm on the upcoming Grazing at the Kitchen Table fundraiser as he is about getting to know the other farms involved. “I’m excited to learn about farms that I’m not that familiar with and how the other chefs are using their ingredients,” he tells us.
When asked what’s the one question he’s always wanted to ask a farmer, Phil directed this question to Fifth Crow Farm: “How do you decide what crops to plan?” Founded by John Vars, Teresa Kurtak and Mike Irving in 2008, Fifth Crow Farm uses crop rotation and complementary planting techniques on their 80-acre land in Pescadero. To answer Phil’s question, they provided an example: “After planting brassicas (such as broccoli and cauliflower) in a spot, we will plant berries there the next season because the brassicas enhance the soil to prevent some known diseases that can impact berries.”
Here, Phil tells us more about the values of sustaining relationships with farms for a chef like himself.
How do you stay in touch with the local food system?
Phil: I go to as many farmers' markets as I can. I don't have the time in my schedule to visit each farm, but I can go to the market and talk to the people. There are some people that I have been seeing for 20 years. I enjoy talking to them, sometimes about food and other times about their lives.
Tell us about a time when you were able to prepare a meal for the farmers who grew or raised the ingredients you were using.
Phil: We recently had that opportunity when a farmer stopped by to make deliveries during our staff meal and I invited him to join us. We were serving falafel and Mediterranean salad. We got to offer him food that we cooked for ourselves and he was very excited by it. Our staff meal is an important part of how I became a chef. We require it to decompress and commiserate. The entire staff attends the meal, and somebody is responsible for the preparation every day. We do an amazing staff meal that makes everybody proud.
What dish will you be making with Fifth Crow Farm’s produce for the fundraiser?
Phil:Shell bean soup with early fall vegetables and herbs. I plan to keep the dish vegetarian since Fifth Crow Farm is a vegetable producer. I want to let their products do the walking and talking.
Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 at Dogpatch WineWorks, San Francisco. Tickets start at $200 and can be purchased here. Click here for more info and follow #GrazeAndGive2015 for updates!