The thing I love about gardening is there is always more to grow and more to learn - kind of like life. Sometimes it can seem like values that are important to me like chemical free, farm raised food have reached as many people as they are going to.
One of the greatest parts about being a part of Bravo’s Top Chef was seeing a whole new group learn to share the values Foxhollow has held since we first brought cattle on the land. Some of the cast had relationships with farmers back at home, or had tended to gardens when they were young children. Most didn’t. It was so encouraging to help them experience first-hand the astonishing quality of garden-grown produce.
My hope is that the cheftestants (and the chefs they influence) will grow more interested in developing relationships with farmers. There are so many benefits to chef / farmer partnerships. Chefs get access to niche, hard to get vegetables that elevate their plate. They also get unique elements - like Adrienne who used cucumber flowers in the garden quick fire challenge. The Top Chef Cast loved that everything we grew was chemical free and every part was edible. Access to a garden gave them materials for dishes that were prettier, more vibrant, and delicious. And they learned how hard gardening is, and the importance of pricing that is fair to hard-working farmers.
There is still room for growth in the Farm to Fork movement to grow into a symbiotic partnership between grower and chef. This season took us a step forward and we are all the better for it.
My hope, too, is that home cooks who enjoy and learn from Bravo’s Top Chef will be encouraged by what they saw. Most of the cast did not have experience gardening - but they all gave it their best shot and had some pretty amazing, vegetable forward, dishes to show for it. My advice for home cooks is to try growing a few things at home to supplement what you get at the market. Sometimes, it seems intimidating, but you can start small and get amazing results. Look at the Top Chef cast house garden - in just a month, it went from a crappy, grassy mess to a productive garden. Just carving out a small patch or a few boxes for fresh peppers, herbs, or quick-growing veggies like radishes and carrots can give a home cook interesting things to try and the satisfaction of eating food raised by your own hand. It sounds corny, but it is a wonderful feeling to put something on the table that you grew yourself.
The contestants came from all over the country - as close as Sarah from Paducah and as far as Brandon and Michelle from California. I hope that the experience here growing their own vegetables will ripple out from each home these chefs return to, and spread the love for gardening, farmers, and the freshest, most colorful food possible.