“Surrounded as it is by an expansive farming community, our restaurant has an incredible opportunity to work closely with purveyors of produce and livestock to create an authentic Ohio experience from our kitchen. We are committed to honoring the animal, head to tail, by partnering with local farmers who provide us with humanely raised pork and by using all of the parts for a memorable dining experience.”
On June 26th 2015, we presented a seven course “Hog to Table” dinner. That dinner had been a dream of mine for a couple of years and it was an incredible experience to be a part of. We sourced a locally raised hog, set up a beautiful communal table out on our treetop pavilion, and cooked a meal that celebrated every part of the animal, including the skin. The unity I felt that night is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was the first time I felt like I had found my true meaning to cook. Being able to select the hog, being a part of the harvesting, and then preparing it with my team was incredible. It was the complete culinary experience. The whole time we were cooking, I could not stop thinking: We’ve gotta do this more.
I have spent the last few months pursuing ways to make Tarragon, which is in the center of a fantastic rural community, more in sync with the land and the food we get from it. My philosophy has always been this: simple is better. When it comes to cooking I follow in the footsteps of many great chefs: sometimes less is more, especially when the ingredients are the best you can find. When I find a great product it makes my life easier in the kitchen. If a product is inherently delicious, all I have to do is present it properly and my job is done.
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Berger of Green Vista Farms in Wooster. What an incredible experience to meet someone who had such passion for his craft! How I feel about cooking is how he feels about raising his animals. I could feel his excitement when he told me that his cows are all grass-fed and pastured raised, and as he explained to me how it worked, it just made sense. We then discussed his pork program, which especially impressed me. He works with neighboring Amish family farms to provide his pork. He carefully selects families who raise pork properly (non-GMO, antibiotic free, and raised according to organic principles) and sets out guidelines that must be adhered to. In doing this, he creates a co-op of local family farms who can proudly stand behind the name Green Vista.
“I can’t do it all myself,” he told me, “And I want everyone to be able to take part in grass-fed, humanely raised, natural products.” He constantly mentioned that raising animals respectfully, conscientious of their biological needs, was commonsense. The more he explained it to me, the more obvious it became.
Stepping onto that farm was like stepping out of reality for an hour. Getting to watch someone so passionate about what they do was rejuvenating and inspiring for me. I love what I do, and now our restaurant will be sourcing our protein from someone who loves what they do, from animals that were afforded good lives. That is a movement worth becoming a part of. That is what we invite you to enjoy as we unveil this year’s “Whole Hog Menu”.
We look forward to sharing our excitement with you as we write a story that will change the way we dine out here in Amish Country.
-Chef Bret Andreasen