Have you ever considered the reasons why it’s important to know where your food comes from?
We sat down with Ben Stinson, Egypt Valley’s Executive Chef, to learn more about his take on the menus at the club and why having strong relationships with local farmers is vital to creating delicious meals.
Why is the farm to table approach to food important?
Farm to table is important for a multitude of reasons, but I will point out one of the most important ones. I think it’s really important to KNOW YOUR FARMERS! We live in a time where our food system is dominated by factory farming operations, and is a system where stewardship of the land and animals that become the products we consume are not given the priority or respect they deserve. It’s also a system where traceability is difficult—to say the least. It seems like every other week we’re hearing about something being recalled.
Take the romaine scare of last year, for example. Everyone was in a panic, and we were all instructed to avoid all romaine lettuce at all costs, regardless of where or what brand you purchased. They were unable to trace the lettuce to its “roots” and therefore any number of the large factory farms could’ve been the culprit. I think not knowing where our food comes from should concern all of us.
Why is this something that you’re so passionate about?
I’m passionate about supporting local farmers because the connection to the food and the story it tells is so important. If I can tell a story about where a product comes from, who makes or grows it, and why it’s different than something they would get anywhere else, then I feel like I’ve taken a dining experience to a deeper, more grounded and meaningful place.
In what ways has the food at Egypt Valley changed since you started here as the head chef?
The food has undergone some changes since I’ve taken over at the helm of the kitchen at EVCC. Both the Trophy Room and Pool Halfway menus have been revamped to better meet the level of service, quality and attention to detail that a club with this kind of reputation strives for.
Cooking should come from a very personal place. Food invokes a very deep and personal reaction in most people, whether conscious or not. I think the menus at the club reflect all of our shared experiences with food, from me to my sous chef Ben Kingsley, our banquet chef Nate Skiffington, and on down to all of our cooks. We cook things we like to eat!
Can you explain what goes into building relationships with our local farmers?
We have worked at building strong relationships with our local farmers and make it a priority to meet face-to-face with the people we decide to work with, as often as possible. I sometimes struggle with the current wave of farm to table restaurants, because many of them use the term as a marketing tool, and not a tool to build relationships with the farmers whose names are listed on their menu.
I’ve seen examples of restaurants getting ahold of a produce house’s local supplier list, and copy and pasting it as their own, whether they use all of those farms or not. If it’s important enough to go through the work of vetting local farms and suppliers, it should be important to celebrate the work they are doing. Knowing and supporting them go hand in hand.
Where to you see EVCC dining going from here?
I envision the dining at the club continually growing into something that we’re proud to put up against any restaurant in town. We’re able to get the best products and have a very talented and committed team of chefs who work with the food every day.
I want EVCC to be a place that people brag about, and ultimately, I want our members to be proud to claim this kitchen as theirs.