Hospitality:

  • the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers (Oxford Dictionaries)
  • cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests (Free Dictionary)
  • the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors (Cambridge Dictionary)

These are just some of the ways that “hospitality” has been defined—and we’d like to take issue with one aspect. In each of these definitions, it’s implied that the guests get the better end of the deal. And, while we hope that we provide a uniquely enjoyable, incredibly special experience to each of our guests, all of us at the Culinary Vegetable Institute would like to say how we are truly honored to offer hospitality to every single person who walks through our doors. It’s at the heart of what we do each day.

So, in this post, we’ll share some of the hospitality highlights from 2019. They include a once-in-a-lifetime experience when Chefs Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud arrived at The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute on September 11 to raise funds for the Bocuse d’Or Team USA.

Bocuse d’Or is a biennial cooking competition where 24 teams compete on the world’s culinary stage, proudly demonstrating their exceptional skills. Team USA, supported by Ment’or, represents the United States on this international platform and is both an opportunity for American chefs to showcase their talent and a collaboration with the entire world.

Because Farmer Lee Jones has called this the most special day of his life, we invite you to read more about this extraordinary event in a new post sharing the highlights of 2019 at The Chef’s Garden. And, to provide a greater sense of what a special day the Bocuse d’Or competition itself is like, here’s what Chef Jamie has to say about his experience as a spectator.

He called it “the most patriotic thing I have ever done as a human” and asks us to “imagine a world stage, with 24 countries behind you waving flags and drumming drums and blowing whistles and dancing and doing chants and national anthems and fireworks. It’s mind blowing, the patriotism that happens. It’s a beautiful place.”

Another Hospitality Highlight From 2019

On the chilly morning of October 12, when temperatures struggled to reach 40 degrees, the Fêtes des Bouchers was held outdoors at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, led by the legendary chef, John Folse.

The Boucherie—or “party of butchers”—is an age-old Southern social tradition where neighbors, friends and families gathered together to butcher and prepare hogs to fill their winter larders. Chef Folse, who is the culinary ambassador of Louisiana, and chef at White Oak Estate and Garden in Baton Rouge—has worked hard to revive this practice to honor its heritage for modern day meat lovers. So, at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, a cadre of butchers and chefs joined him on that very special day to demonstrate multiple ways a single animal can be prepared.

There was also an education tent that day; the first presentation was titled Salumi/Charcuterie 101: The Fundamentals of Presentation Traditions by Mark M. DeNittis of DeNCo Enterprises, LLC. That was followed up by Dueling Hams: Heritage Breeds and Sugar-Cured Ham Demonstration, co-presented by Ron Joyce of Joyce Farms and Chef Folse. The third presentation shared insights into Boucherie history, presented by Stephen “Steve” Estopinal and James “Jim” Hunter.

In short, Chef Folse brought the heartbeat of yesteryear to the present, with the rich culture and marvelous food of New Orleans celebrated in Ohio.

Even More Hospitality Highlights

On August 24th, culinary students from Lorain County Joint Vocational School shared the CVI kitchen for a pop-up dinner with Chef Scott Schneider, Chef de Cuisine at New York’s Michelin Star-rated Ai Fiori restaurant. Chef Scott is a 2006 graduate of Lorain County’s JVS culinary program.

Also at hand to help was Chef Jessica Krause, who graduated a year after Scott; the duo then attended the Culinary Institute of America together, with Jessica now the banquet chef at Jack Casino in Cleveland. Here’s what she had to say about this year’s JVS students having the opportunity to prepare the pop-up dinner at the CVI.

“It’s an amazing learning opportunity and opportunity to grow,” she said. “The more you work with experienced people, the more it broadens your horizons. Watch how they prepare things. Watch the way that they break down meats, the way they treat vegetables. The respect for the product is the most important thing. The respect for where the food comes from is something special, and it’s something you don’t get everywhere else. It’s amazing what they do there.”

When Jessica was a student, she had a similar opportunity, and here are her thoughts about being at the CVI. “Being young and being able to experience that—if you’re passionate about the industry it puts a desire in you to push and be better and to strive for greatness.”

This summer, we also were blessed by a visit from Chef Sherene Hutchinson, Junior Sous Chef at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. She was the winner of the 2018 Masters of the Craft competition, an annual showcase of more than 2,000 of Marriott’s most talented chefs and bartenders from its locations across North, South and Central America.

Part of her prize was an all-expenses paid trip to the Culinary Vegetable Institute to give her a chance to foster her talents and passion even further. While here, she helped us to prepare courses for the Tomato Vegetable Showcase dinner. “The tomato dinners were phenomenal,” she said. “I got to be a part of it from start to finish. There is something beautiful about a freshly picked tomato, but something magical about that same tomato on a plate, utilized to its full potential.”

Chef Sherene was particularly enamored with Chef’s Garden’s huckleberry tomatoes, which she said would be a natural fit with the spicy flavors of her native Jamaica. “I was amazed by the flavor of it,” she said. “I had never had one before. It immediately brought me to a spiced tomato chutney with scotch bonnet.”

Another fond culinary memory of 2019 happened a little bit earlier in the summer when about a dozen chefs were laser focused on preparing a dish and dessert for the chef who’d been mentoring them for two days at the CVI: Chef Jérôme Lacressonnière.

Chef Jérôme is Executive Chef Director of DUCASSE Conseil, the consulting arm of DUCASSE Paris. “I want them to dream,” Chef Jérôme said about bringing the chefs to the CVI. “To make them dream and to see how far we can go.”

These chefs experienced a two-day team building event to help them reignite their passion for their work, which can wear down during the daily grind of a corporate cooking environment. During their stay, they learned plenty about Chef Jérôme’s philosophy, and were inspired by his focus on joy.

For Chef Paul Basciano, camaraderie and connections were a welcome side benefit of the CVI experience. “We take inspiration from each other, and we don’t often get to hang around together and cook,” Chef Paul said. “When we are together it’s usually business functions. It’s usually a very large catering function, or its business oriented and the focus is not on us just getting together and cooking. So it’s been really good for us to connect on a personal level, get to know each other a little bit better, and kind of hang around and become work friends.”

Choosing the CVI for their team retreat was a no-brainer. “It’s the best decision we could have made,” Chef Paul said. “This was always on a bucket list for me. Thankfully I had a pretty large say in where we were going, so we made a couple of enquiries. And the team here was so great. They were so quick to respond and so accommodating that they made it very, very easy for us to decide to come here. It’s been amazing.”

In June, the CVI honored the celebrity chefs of the 1980s whose rock star status propelled superior-quality, homegrown, fresh ingredients into the spotlight. Dinner was prepared by two renowned guest chefs, Claudia Fleming and David Waltuck, while the panel discussion centered on Andrew Friedman’s 2018 book, Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits, and Wanderers Created a New American Profession. In his book Friedman explores the chefs, trends and emergence of domestically-grown ingredients during the ‘80s.

 

One of those chefs was from France, Jean-louis Palladin, and he encouraged American farms to grow varieties he needed—including the fledgling farm called The Chef’s Garden.

“He was looking for those fresh ingredients and, quite frankly, he took us under his wing,” said Farmer Lee Jones. “He trusted in us, but he also encouraged us and, in a lot of ways, he really kicked our butts and said, ‘get with the program ─ grow it without chemicals, grow it for the flavor, grow it for the integrity of the product.’”

Jones said the decade’s limited resources and selection in the U.S. positioned The Chef’s Garden for a golden opportunity.

“We were at the right place at the right time to be able to take advantage of recognizing those chefs’ needs,” he said. “Jean-louis Palladin recognized our commitment, our passion and our hunger to somehow find a way to survive in agriculture. And he knew that we were listening and that we meant business and that we were going to do everything we could to fulfill his needs.”

Here’s just one more example of an amazing year. In April, a group of young hipster chefs came into the CVI kitchen, and the atmosphere surrounding them felt more like a party. Laughter, banter, good-natured ribbing and a pervasive feeling of fun and friendship emanated from the kitchen. Prior to each course, the five sampled the featured wine pairings in a communion of kinship, each sipping in turn from a shared glass, uttering jokes and wisecracks in place of prayers.

At the center of this event? Mung beans masquerading as eggs.

When asked what he hoped guests would take away from this event, one chef said awareness and initiative. “I hope that, if one person tonight looks at food differently, that if one person goes ‘Aha! Food can be different!,’ then I think our mission goes a little bit further,” he said. “I’m not trying to change the world tomorrow. I think it comes from innovation. It comes from people taking leaps. It comes from one or two people understanding what we’re doing, and then talking about it.”

“I’m hoping that people go out and buy more than just our products,” he continued. “Yes, JUST egg is on the market, JUST mayo is there, our cookies are there, and they’re all wonderful. But there’s a whole movement. Even if they don’t buy JUST egg product, if they just think about having vegetables first, or thinking more sustainably what they cook, even thinking about what they are feeding their kids, and reading the back of the label: win.”

Wishing a 2020 Full of Hygge

As 2019 is transforming itself into the new year—and decade—of 2020, we’ve noticed the Danish word of “hygge” appearing in social media messages. And, the more we read about this concept, the more we realize how it underlies much of the best of the CVI. Here’s an overview:

Hygge is the new mantra for happiness. The Danish philosophy is a state of mind, not just a comfortable lifestyle choice. The Danish believe that healing, health and happiness can be experienced only when you have the right state of mind and experience a comfortable life. A life lived through the philosophy of hygge should comprise of 5 basic elements:

  • Comfort
  • Companionship
  • Relaxation
  • Connection to Nature
  • Simplicity

During this upcoming year, then, we encourage you to visit the Culinary Vegetable Institute, to enjoy an atmosphere of filled with hospitality and hygge!