Chef. Innovator. Visionary. Anne Quatrano is widely held to be one of the country’s greatest chefs. Her meticulous attention to detail dovetails seamlessly with her devotion to freshness, flavor and simplicity. A longtime proponent of sustainability, Anne has – since her earliest days – prided herself in using locally grown seasonal and organic produce, much of which is from her own organic gardens grown at her home on Summerland Farm in Cartersville, Ga. Together with her husband, award-winning chef Clifford Harrison, she operates five of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants – Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Floataway Café and Abattoir.
We are thrilled she is traveling to Des Moines to cook for the family farmers who raise hogs for Niman Ranch.
Thank you chefs Anne and Clifford for your commitment to humanely raised meat.
Niman Ranch celebrates its more than 550 U.S. family hog farmers at its 15th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. Seven renowned chefs share their passion for humanely and sustainably raised pork by honoring the farmers who raise the animals at the annual celebration.
“Each of these chefs has shown a commitment to using humanely and sustainably raised pork in their restaurants,” said Paul Willis, Niman Ranch Pork Company founder and manager. “Our farmers take pride in raising hogs traditionally but often do not get to see how chefs use the pork on their menus, so we bring the restaurants to them.”
Over the next three weeks we will introduce you to each of these chefs.
Recently I visited the Brown family at their farm in New Providence, Iowa. They are a part of the network of family farmers who supply pigs to Niman Ranch. It was a beautiful drive about an hour and a half south of my house. I couldn’t help but notice that there were many fields that remained bare because of the record amounts of rain we received in May, our prime time for planting here in Iowa. Unfortunately, some fields won’t be planted because not enough time remains in the growing season to produce any kind of yield. Many farmers may plant cover crops to prevent erosion and to have something on the land.
When I arrived at what I thought was the Brown farm, I was confused. There was a sign posted in the yard that said: “Alderland Farms.” I thought I may have gone to the wrong property. But then I saw Paul Brown, who gave me a warm welcome and invited me inside their farm house.
It’s great to see that so many people are gaining awareness about the increasing obstacles family farmers across America are facing but many don’t know what to do about it. Fortunately for us, Niman Ranch recognized early on that young and beginning farmers lack the support and tools they need and often go looking for opportunities elsewhere abandoning their family’s tradition of farming.
To slow this trend, Niman Ranch set up the Next Generation Scholarship Fund. This fund supports the children of farmers within the Niman Ranch community of family farmer by offering them scholarships to help them seek a higher education in areas that would improve their family’s farming operation and their rural hometown communities.
As the summer heats up, we have been firing up the grill to stay out of the kitchen. Grilling everything from steaks to pizzas but this recipe is a staple in our family. We use the marinade on beef and chicken but pork chops are our favorite. Paired with steamed rice and a Corn and Edamame Salad, it is an easy dinner much of which can be prepared ahead of time.
Instead of purchasing pre-cut chops, I found a packaged Niman Ranch pork loin at my local Sprouts grocery store in Boulder, Colo. and cut my own chops at home. Pretty easy, all you need is a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board. I cut five chops from the quarter loin, each about ¾ of an inch. They were well marbled and perfect for the grill.
I participated recently in Food Revolution Day at Google campus in Seattle, Washington. It was part of a broader event held nationally at all of the Google campuses and worldwide as part of Food Revolution Day. This is a day to reconnect people with real food and essential cooking skills. It was started by television personality Chef Jamie Oliver. He describes the Food Revolution on his website as:
“a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.”
For the past ten years, Sophia and I have been living on a farm just a mile away from where I grew up. Last month, we finally decided to make a change and move into town. It was a tough decision, we’ll no doubt miss living on a farm, but we are close enough to still help my father. This realization made the transition a little bit easier.
Remember that six-pack of chickens we bought back in March? Well, they grew pretty fast and I have to confess their home our basement where we were keeping them became a bit of a nuisance. It was a real chore to clean it every day and the chickens were going through the feed like you wouldn’t believe. We brought those chickens with us when we moved into town and move them to a fancy little chicken run and hen house we found at our local farm supply store.
When given dinner options in our house, where boys rule, the answer is always unanimous, “Cheeseburgers!” I must admit that I love cheeseburgers too, and not just because they’re simple and easy to prepare, but because Niman Ranch has amazing ground beef.
During the week we usually cook the burgers indoors in a cast iron skillet over high heat. On weekends, especially when the boys’ buddy, Dash, comes over we always make sure to fire up the charcoal grill in time for an afternoon of burgers and playtime.
The other benefit to burgers is they can be simple for the kids and more gourmet for the adults. Jazz ‘em up any way you like.
As the U.S. family farm disappears, we are proud of our young Niman Ranch farmers. They are committed to raising hogs sustainably and humanely while continuing the traditional farming practices handed down by their parents and grandparents. Meet Adair, a young farmer following the family tradition.
On March 16-17, Edible Communities hosted its Edible Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. The weekend was full of great speakers, panels and discussions, including an interview of our very own Paul Willis. The Institute touched on many aspects of our food system – from farming through consumption. Here are a few of the highlights of the two-day event:
Saturday morning started off with a bang with a presentation from the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU Professor and best-selling author. A dynamic speaker and personality, Dr. Nestle spoke about the increase in the American population’s consumption habits since 1980 and how advertising can affect our perception. She mentioned that as a country, we are consuming more calories per day and our portion sizes have increased. Additionally, she spoke about how the deregulation of health claims has allowed advertisers to target children more effectively. Dr. Nestle advocates social responsibility and is currently writing a new book about the food system for kids.