Sean Brady didn’t exactly set out to own a trout hatchery when he was in the midst of purchasing a house near Thornbury, ON. He was on his way to view the house when the realtor mentioned another property for sale nearby. Sean agreed to check the property out. He found an abandoned trout hatchery fed by cold, crystal clear spring water. Sean, together with business partner Bruce Green, decided to fix it up and re-open the hatchery in 2009, after being given some trout stock by neighbouring farms.
How does the hatchery work?
The source of the hatchery’s cold spring water (about 7-9 degrees Celsius) comes down from cloud formation, filters down through the limestone, and then travels below the forest floor, picking up minerals, enzymes and nutrients along the way. The trout feed on fairy shrimps (which gives their flesh the signature pink hue), mosquitoes, midges and minnows. They are supplemented with a feed mix made up of plant protein, a combination of flax, soy and corn. There’s no need to use any kind of added growth hormones or antibiotics because the inland spring water is largely self-correcting – gravity does most of the work to keep the water properly oxygenated to prevent bacteria growth! They also use sponges to collect debris from storm water.
Here you can see some young trout, swirling around in the nursery section of the hatchery. Believe it or not, these trout are already many months old at this point:
Catching and processing Kolapore Trout
Trout are very slow growing (even slower because of the cold water), only being harvested once they reach about three years of age. Sean and his staff take lots of care to ensure the fish aren’t over crowded – they never would add in so many that they go over the natural water column of the hatchery.
They are caught with dip nets and processed at a nearby processing plant. Because they are so carefully tended, they have a beautiful firm flesh and absolutely fantastic flavour. The hatchery produces very little waste, and the fish excrement that is produced gets collected and harvested for fertilizer.
Shelf life and packaging
Fresh, they have a shelf life of 10 days from packaging. Right now, we have these available on a slightly altered schedule, so you’ll need to contact your sales rep directly to order. The fresh trout fillets are sourced from both Sean’s hatchery, as well as two other private hatcheries and two First Nations fish farms. All the locations grow and care for their trout using agreed upon standards set out by Kolapore Springs.We will also be carrying their delicious smoked trout, which is sourced from a wider network of Ontario trout farms.
Thank you to Sean for giving us a tour of Kolapore Springs and providing all the information!
This past Monday, we wrangled a great group of chefs onto a schoolbus to attend our first farm tour of 2019. We chose to highlight the regional producers in the Alliston/Shelburne area: quernin’ = k2 Milling; churnin’ = Alliston Creamery; and herdin’ = Sheldon Creek Dairy. This tour was in partnership with Sheldon Creek Dairy and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
Visiting k2 Milling is always fun: owner Mark Hayhoe is both welcoming and informative. Chefs toured his small retail shop, which features antiques and curios related to all things milling, while Mark gave us the skinny on his unique mill. Mark has a long and storied family history of milling, and his evident passion for his family’s legacy shines through. Mark highlighted how he differs from larger scale, industrial mills: those operations process up to 50 tonnes an hour, whereas Mark and his head miller, Steve, process up to 1 tonne an hour.
This allows Mark and Steve some exciting freedom. Since they
mill much smaller batches, they can play around and innovate with unique
flours: Mark mills quinoa flour, grape flours from dehydrated grape skins,
cranberry, blueberry flours… you name it, he’s probably tried it!
Mark sources his grains from farmers throughout Ontario, both conventional and organic. Mark impressed us all by sharing that (after decades of milling experience) he can smell a bag of flour and determine right away if it’s conventional or organic. Mark is often even able to pinpoint the field or region where it was grown! The terroir of the flour really is that pronounced, but many of us are accustomed to industrially processed flour that doesn’t have a strong smell.
K2 Milling’s smaller scale, lower heat milling process also
ensures the integrity of the nutritional value of the flour stays high. This
can mean the density of k2 flours may not be what you expect. Mark acknowledged
his products can occasionally present a challenge for chefs and bakers who
haven’t used them before. Sometimes, adjustments will need to be made to your
recipe and process to receive the best result. Mark and our sales team are
always more than happy to answer any questions you have or make suggestions on
how to modify recipes to achieve the best result. The flavour you get from
using k2 flours is a far richer one than many larger scale, industrially
Next stop, we ventured fifteen minutes down the road to Alliston Creamery, the very last independent creamery in Ontario. The creamery is tiny – our group had to split off into two to be able to tour it! We saw the room where the cream comes in and begins being heated and churned. It’s then transported to another room and from there, the finished butter gets funneled through the machine that turns it into the familiar blocks. Once it’s in block form, it gets wrapped into the butter foil and packed up into boxes. Next, it either gets moved into their freezers or wrapped onto a skid to be shipped out.
In addition to their own brand of butter called Golden Dawn,
Alliston co-packs some other smaller butter products including the Emerald
Grasslands grass-fed butter, the Thornloe grass-fed butter, and the Hope
Artisan Dairy butter.
Our third, and final, stop of the day was Sheldon Creek Dairy. When we arrived, we spread out to have a picnic to eat our great local food lunches from Farmr Eatery and sample some Sheldon Creek products, including their new line of A2 Milk. A new winery that just opened down the road, Windrush Estate Winery, came and sampled us some of their wines, a lovely bonus to the day!
Marianne den Haan and the rest of her family have, much like Mark, a long farming history. Marianne’s Opa and Oma emigrated to Canada from Holland, where they purchased their first dairy cow and founded Haanview Farms in 1953. After being dairy farmers for many years, in 2012, the den Haan family expanded their business to open Sheldon Creek Dairy. Sheldon is an independent onsite dairy where they make their whole milk products sourcing exclusively from their own herd of cows!
We were there to tour their new barn. It was quite a site to behold. Marianne, and her sister Emily (who primarily looks after the herd), put a lot of thought into the design of the new facility, relying on some of the ground-breaking cow behaviour research from Temple Grandin. The result is one of the nicest barns we’ve ever seen – a beautifully bright and airy facility with lots of fans to keep it cool and well ventilated. The cows are separated out by whether they are lactating or currently pregnant, with sandy beds throughout the whole barn for them to rest on. Everything is designed in a circle, because that is how cows tend to move. They are encouraged to go outside to the fields to graze each day. However, because of the heat, the cows have only voluntarily gone outside a handful of times so far this summer. They are much more content to stay in their temperate cow paradise!
This is because these cows have a huge degree of autonomy.
Technological and robotic investments mean the cows can feed themselves, groom
themselves, water themselves, and even milk themselves! That’s right: the cows
milk themselves! With Emily there to explain, our curious group got to watch a
few cows rock up to the milking robot.
It’s a super cool process: basically the cows walk into the
standing area where they are giving a multivitamin (which is like a treat to
them). They are scanned to ensure that haven’t yet been milked in the past 6
hours, and if they haven’t been milked too recently, the process begins. The
robot sends a brush to clean off their teats to prevent bacteria and sensors
map the udders to determine where the attachments should be placed. Once the
cow is all clean, the machine attaches to the rudder and the milking begins!
The milk gets funneled into separate lines and tanks depending on which type it
is, A1 or A2.
Another important function of the robotic milking system is regularly test the milk. They want to act as quickly as possible if a cow’s milk sample indicates illness – she must be separated and treated with appropriate medication. Only after any medication is out of her system will she be milked again. In Canadian produced milk, there are huge fines associated with any milk that have traces of hormones or antibiotics. Sheldon Creek (like all Canadian dairy farmers) monitor their herds closely after any necessary antibiotic use.
Once the milking process is complete, (which takes only about five minutes) the automatic gate opens and the cow walks off, ready to rejoin her herd.
There was no doubt in our minds that their herd of dairy cows are treated with an enormous level of care and respect. Marianne and Emily know a lot about cow psychology. Marianne pointed out that cows only moo when they are in distress or discomfort. What you want to hear in a cow barn is no mooing and the soft sound of chewing cud. She asked us then to pause and listen. The barn was near silent, except for the sound of the cows chewing their cud and happily swishing their tails.
We loved facilitating this farm tour, and a huge thank you
to Marianne, Emily, Mark, Bill and David for hosting us on this tour.
Stay tuned for the announcement for the next tour, where
we’ll be checking out some other 100km farm partners!
Partnership between iQ Food Co, The New Farm and 100km Foods
Regenerative agriculture. A term that holds a world of possibilities for addressing climate change.
We’ve talked about this before with Gillian Flies from The New Farm, one of our first farm partners to transition their farm to using regenerative agriculture methods of land management. We encourage you to read the full piece here. But the gist of it is: regenerative agriculture is a land management system that goes beyond operating at carbon zero and, instead, works to capture carbon in the soil, making it a carbon negative operation. Carbon gets sucked back into the soil, and we reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
This is really good news for the planet. As Gillian has pointed out, the potential regenerative agriculture holds to help combat climate change can be replicated the world over. Many farmers are already positioned to transition towards using these farming practices, and Gillian is hard at work educating other farmers in the Ontario region on just how to go about this.
But now, let’s talk about the other side of the equation.
What can restaurants and retailers do?
As it turns out, restaurants, and the Chefs who lead them, can do a lot. A critical way that restaurants and retailers can support regenerative agriculture is by putting those products on their menus and in their storefronts. And since restaurants and retailers have hundreds of customers a day, it’s also an amazing opportunity to educate and create awareness around this innovative method of farming.
Christine Flynn is the Executive Chef of iQ Food Co. iQ is a Toronto-based group of restaurants and healthy takeout that put sustainability and seasonality at the heart of their decision making. They are long-time supporters of the work that The New Farm is doing. This week marks the launch of something very special: Solve it With Salad, a partnership between iQ Foods, The New Farm, and 100km Foods. The New Farm’s organic, regenerative (and REALLY tasty) greens take front row for their summer menu. And they give consumers a choice: they have a suggested menu price that encourages diners to fully support regenerative agriculture!
The Solve it with Salad initiative gives a choice to individuals to make a difference with their dollars in a direct way. 100km Foods very carefully source identifies every product, and we go pick up at The New Farm ourselves. We deliver these greens to the iQ Foods locations the next day, so be assured of two things: they are SUPER fresh (hand harvested only 24hrs before!) and guaranteed regenerative.
Chef Christine tells us, “Our hope is that our guests support us in supporting the New Farm, and that we can share our successful model of farmer – distributor – retailer and have it replicated not just nationally but globally.”
This initiative is the start of something new. We can begin with these smaller, every-day choices as individuals about the kind of agriculture and distribution model we support. Because, let’s not forget: thousands of individual choices add up to make a very meaningful impact!
A huge thank you to Christine Flynn for the information and photos! Photograper for the shoot: Brilynn Ferguson.
Welcome to the fifth, and final, profile in
our chef series! Jason and Nicole Sawatsky are the Chef owners of The Yellow
Pear in St. Catharines, ON. The Yellow Pear represents many iterations of
farm-to-table food: it is a food truck, event catering, AND an extremely
popular brunch spot in St. Catharines, ON.
Chefs Jay and Nicole’s paths to becoming
chefs were very similar ones. They both loved food and loved learning how to
cook early in their childhoods. It was always expected by everyone who knew
them that they’d pursue careers in the food industry. They first met each other
when they were in culinary school together and ended up being assigned as lab
partners. They immediately connected, but at the time, Nicole was in a
relationship with someone else. School ended and they parted ways, forging
their own paths working in kitchens across Toronto and Southern Ontario. A few
years later, Nicole reached out again to Jay on a whim to ask him on a date.
Two weeks later, they’d moved in together! Now, they are coming up to their ten
year wedding anniversary.
The Evolution of The Yellow Pear
They began The Yellow Pear back in 2013. So
named, by the way, after a variety of heirloom tomato they grew in their
backyard! By that point, they’d both worked in an array of restaurants and
settled in St. Catharines. They wanted to work for themselves but didn’t yet
feel they were in a position to take on the financial risk of a
bricks-and-mortar restaurant. They settled on the idea of a farm-to-fork food
truck, doing mostly event catering. Being based in St. Catherines and so close
to Niagara-on-the-lake, they decided they’d drive their truck to farms in the
region and base their event menus on what was available at the time. Fun fact:
theirs was the first solar powered, propane free, generator free food truck in
Their concept behind The Yellow Pear turned
out to be an enormous success, and they very quickly built up their event
business focusing on catering weddings. They’d sit down with the bride and
groom and get a sense of what kind of meals they wanted to serve, but they left
it up to chance and only created the final menu based off what Nicole and Jay
could source from farms that week. As Nicole explains, they wanted to ‘give
them something they’re not going to get at home or anywhere. Let’s make it
special.’ It’s easier to do that ‘when you have great ingredients.’ They still
cater weddings and the menus continue to be made with at least 90% Ontario
grown ingredients. That’s spectacular!
Eventually, their business expanded to the
point where they needed a prep kitchen & storage space. They hadn’t
actually decided on opening a sit-down restaurant until they were shown the
location by their realtor, and they realized it would make a perfect brunch
spot. Thus, The Yellow Pear opened its doors back in October 2017.
They’ve been in the food business for a
long time now, and to stay motivated, there are two things that play a big
role. One, they feel lucky to live on the doorstep of the lush Niagara region.
Being so close to so many farms and wineries keeps them connected to their
vision. Second, seeing what their peers are doing with local food continues to
100km Foods is their core supplier, since
they curate a menu that is over 90% local. In the early days, Nicole would
drive around to each farm herself. But as their business grew, that became
impossible to continue. 100km Foods was an ‘amazing’ fit for them, letting them
continue to source products from some of the same farmers as before and be
introduced to new ones.
We asked their advice to sourcing local and planning seasonally. Jay says ‘you have to be smart about it!’ Nicole, who does the ordering, says ‘It’s pretty easy with 100km. Financially, it all works out.’ This is in part because the labour time needed to work with the ingredients is less, since they are of such ‘high quality.’ When it comes to being seasonal, they have a lot of flexibility. Nicole and Jay develop their specials and their menus based on what is available and switch it up all the time. They love the ability to showcase their creativity in this way, which keeps it exciting for them! One of the things they love best is the excitement they share with their diners, who are often being introduced to heirloom varieties of vegetables they may never have eaten before.
Since Jay and Nicole source almost entirely
from 100km, they have plenty of favourite products. They love the eggs from Homestead,
Seed to Sausage products, the Sheldon Creek and Harmony dairy products –
especially the egg nog! K2 milling products are a huge hit, as well. They love
the New Farm greens and one of their newest favourites is Planet Shrimp. For
the food truck events especially, they LOVE the Welsh Bros Corn. Nicole loves
the huge cheese selection, saying a recent favourite of hers has been the Game
Changer from Stonetown Cheese.
When it comes to what they love to cook,
Jay and Nicole both said Welsh Bros. sweet corn is one of their favourites.
They do a Mexican-style street corn off their truck and some weeks they go
through hundreds of cobs. They also get pallets of firewood from Warner’s Farm
to cook and grill over the fire in the summer months.
Next, our question that stumped everyone!
Who would they have dinner with, dead or alive? Jay decided he would like to
have dinner with his Oma, who was a huge influence on Jay growing up and a
wonderful home cook. Nicole decided on Lady Gaga! Nicole said Lady Gaga seems like
she’d enjoy a variety of food, and Nicole would take it one step further and
would love to cook for her someday!
If they weren’t chefs, what would they be doing?
Jay said once upon a time, he considered
being an architect. But now, if he wasn’t a chef, he’s certain he’d still be
connected to food by becoming a farmer. At the end of the day though, Jay says
‘I’ve never really second guessed my career, so I haven’t really thought about
that. No, I love my job. It’s hard work, but I love my job.’ Nicole said she’d
still like to be a chef, but she’d love to ‘be a chef in Europe!’ She admires
and respects the food culture in Europe and would love to learn from the chefs in
We had a fantastic time sitting down with
Jay and Nicole. They are such a great team and are transforming the food scene
in their corner of St. Catharines. They have woven local food into their
business every step of the way, and we are so impressed by their steadfast
commitment – so of course they are a wonderful addition to our group of
ambassadors! Next time you’re in St. Catharines, we recommend making a
reservation at The Yellow Pear for brunch!
Next in our series: we sat down with Chef Taylor McMeekin, the executive
chef from The Chase in Toronto. The Chase is known for being a fine dining
establishment focused on fish and seafood, however, they have made a
sustainability commitment and their restaurant menu is now 25% plant based!
Like all our other ambassadors, Chef Taylor has a long history working
with 100km Foods as distribution partner. Taylor joined the team at the Chase
just over a year and a half ago, but before that he was working at the Air
Canada Centre. For the many years as a chef at various establishments, Taylor
has worked with 100km Foods.
Why local food?
Taylor’s commitment for local food stems partly from his rural
upbringing. He has many great memories as a kid of hiking and exploring Grey
County with his parents. Some of Taylor’s fondest memories include foraging
with his parents and cooking what they found in the bush, and Taylor still
enjoys foraging to this day! He also spent a lot of time on farms, as most of
his family members and community were farmers. Taylor started working in
kitchens when he was 13 years old as a dishwasher. He loved the intense energy
of the kitchen right from the start, and has stayed working in kitchens ever
since! One of the things that has kept him going all these years is the
fantastic people he has met in the restaurant industry. As Taylor says, ‘the
passion that surrounds you keeps the passion within.’
Taylor’s rural roots is a huge factor into why he has pushed for a
commitment to sourcing local food wherever he has worked. Growing up in Grey
County, he learned plenty about produce. When he was in his late teens, Taylor moved
to Bruce County for work, where he learned about animal husbandry. It was
always important to him to support the local, rural economy through the
purchasing power of restaurants in the city. For him, it’s a way to ‘come full
circle.’ Of the different distributors Taylor has worked with, he says ‘100km
has always been the most reliable. Always gave us the best information, always
good working with them.’
When we asked Taylor about advice for other chefs to plan a seasonal
menu and source local, he joked and said ‘work harder to get it done!’ Jokes
aside, being strategic about planning your menu does take some effort. But the
payoff is certainly worth it, since ‘it’s going to be closer to you and tasting
better and going to be fresher, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint
through transportation and supporting the local economy. It’s really a ‘no
brainer’ for a sustainable choice.
Another thing Taylor swears by: using the Seasonality Calendar available
through the 100km Foods website, calling it ‘one of the greatest tools ever made.’
Taylor says it’s very in-depth, and though as a chef he feels its important to
have a general idea of seasonality, when you’re sitting down in the middle of
February to plan the spring/summer menus, it helps to be able to pull it up and
refresh your memory! He also appreciates the ongoing conversation 100km Foods
provides around how the season is progressing, especially when the weather can
be deeply unpredictable. We chatted about a spring a few years past where there
were so many torrential downpours which affected availability. Taylor remembers
that spring keenly, recalling a foraging trip with his uncle to find ramps and
losing not one, but both of his
rubber boots and finishing their trek barefoot!
We turned next to discussing Taylor’s favourite products to source
through 100km. He is a big fan of Mark Hayhoe from k2 Milling, saying he goes
through ‘a ton of different products,’ and that they are ‘doing a fantastic
job!’ He also loves all the Fogo Island Fish products. The honey vinegars from
Ontario Honey Creations are another of his staple products, and all of the oils
from Pristine Gourmet. The Chase also gets all their dairy from Hewitts and use
the Golden Dawn butter from Alliston Creamery on their menus.
We asked Taylor what his favourite dish to cook was, and he said he
didn’t have an answer. He loves everything he gets to cook and never fails to
enjoy the satisfaction he gets from having all the different components of a
dish come together. So, we asked him then, what are some of his favourite foods
to eat? He (unsurprisingly, since he’s the executive chef at a seafood
restaurant) said he loves to eat fish and seafood. However – his ‘desert
island’ choice would probably be all the varieties of onions and farm-fresh
eggs. You can’t go wrong with that choice!
We turned next to discussing who he’d want to have dinner with. He said
his ‘chef’ answer is definitely the late Anthony Bourdain, but other people
he’d love to chat with include the authors William S. Burroughs and Hunter S.
And if he wasn’t a chef? Taylor thinks he’d go right back to his roots
and be a farmer. He loves the physicality of the job and needing to be
consistent and on top of things – he thinks it’s a very close fit to what he
treasures about being a chef.
At the end of the day, Taylor wants to continue to innovate how
restaurants source and plan menus to prioritize sustainability. He thinks often
about the impact human society is having on the planet and would love to, some
day, be involved with more programs that are focused on sustainability.
We loved chatting with Taylor and were very spoiled when he cooked us a
delicious plant-based lunch afterwards. Taylor is such a warm, kind and funny
person whose culinary talent and commitment to local food and sustainability
shines through in everything he does. We feel so lucky to be able to include
him as an ambassador for 100km Foods!
For the next installment in our Chef ambassador
series, we sat down with Chef Lora Kirk. Lora is chef & co-owner of Ruby
Watchco in Toronto. Chef Lora has an impressive culinary resume, having worked
as a chef internationally for over fifteen years – including working with
Gordon Ramsey and Angela Hartnett at the Connaught Hotel!
Lora is another amazing local food advocate who has a
long history and strong relationship with 100km Foods. She and her wife, Lynn,
opened Ruby Watchco ten years ago and have been sourcing through 100km since its
opening. For Lora, she was drawn to pursue a career as a chef in part because
of her profound connection to food and the land through her family. Lora’s
parents had a hobby farm, and her grandparents were farmers just outside of
Peterborough, ON. From a young age, they instilled within Lora a love and
appreciation of being in nature, harvesting food, and cooking meals from
scratch using ingredients they grew themselves. Having grown up with such an
intimate familiarity with all things food, it was a really natural fit for Lora
to become a chef.
There are two things that keep Lora passionate and
motivated in her career as a chef: sharing in the joy and delight as her
daughters, Addie Pepper and Gemma Jet, try different foods for the first time.
And the other: working with great farmers and growers. As Lora says,
‘surrounding yourself with good people (…) pushes you forward.’
As mentioned, Lora has been sourcing through 100km
Foods for almost as long as 100km has existed. Lora appreciates that 100km does
‘a lot of the leg work for you.’ The legitimacy 100km Foods offers (since we
are able to connect with the farmers directly and guarantee the products are
local) provides the comfort and safety of knowing with certainty you’re getting
what you think you’re getting. 100km Foods also partners with farms who not
only have great stories, but also grow great products. For Lora, these
connections continuously inspire her to craft something spectacular with the
Sourcing local, planning seasonal
We were really eager to pick Lora’s brain about
sourcing local and planning seasonal menus. She encourages chefs to think
deeply about what you want to cook with, and why. She likens being a chef
nowadays to being a kid in a candy store – you can order ‘anything, from
anybody, from anywhere. That doesn’t mean the quality is going to be the
greatest.’ For Lora, she prioritizes sourcing locally, because then she knows
where the product is coming from and because ‘if I’m going to support someone,
I want to support someone in my community.’ Back when Lora and Lynn were
opening Ruby Watchco, they chose to prioritize local because it made sense with
their decision to frequently change the menu. They didn’t do it to be trendy:
they did it because they intuitively understood that the relationship building
fostered through sourcing from local farms nurtures a small restaurant
business. However, she emphasizes that there needs to be a level of legitimacy
behind it and the quality of ingredient that she looks for. Simply branding
something ‘local’ isn’t enough.
She has two other crucial points to make. First, once
that product is in your door, you need to ‘use every last peeling’ and be smart
about how you use it, store it, and plan with it. Second, ‘good chefs are good
problem solvers,’ so she urges other chefs to pay attention to how the growing
season is progressing. Some years will be great for certain kinds of crops, and
some years won’t. If you pay attention to how the season is trending, you can
push yourself to be creative when things may not go as planned. Like the other
chefs we’ve spoken to, Lora cites the seasonality calendar as a useful tool, as
well as the new growing forecast emails we send out monthly. This proactive
information we provide is something other suppliers are unlikely to do, where
the best you’ll get when you ask if a product is available is simply, ‘no.’
There’s something special about Fogo Island Cod
When we turned to some of Lora’s favourite products
she sources, and she said her current favourite is the hand-line caught cod
from Fogo Island Fish. For those who may not know, Lora was able to spend time
in Fogo Island with Tony and Janice and has gone out to catch the cod with the
fishers – which
you can read about here. The product is great, and the story is so special.
Her other favourites include The New Farm greens. These greens are more than
just greens. Lora says they are also extraordinary because of the work Brent
and Gil are doing and how they’re changing agriculture to adapt to climate
change. She also loves carrots from Gwillimdale Farms, saying they sometimes
‘can be the sweetest carrots I’ve ever had.’
We asked Lora her favourite meals to cook. Her answer
was straight the to the point: ‘anything with eggs!’. Lora and Lynn both are
big egg eaters at home, and that’s also one of Addie Pepper’s favourites (she
may be young but she’s already learning to crack eggs one handed!). Poached,
scrambled, omelette, you name it, they love it. Another one of her favourite
late-night meals is pasta, bacon and scrambled eggs with hot sauce. Lora also
loves working with the espelette peppers from St. David’s, and always makes
time to smoke them and make a huge batch of hot sauce.
Who would Lora share a meal with?
Now, the question that has stumped everyone thus far –
who would Lora eat with, dead or alive? After much deliberation, Lora settled
on a very beautiful answer: her great-grandmother and her babka (grandma). She
only was able to meet her great-grandmother once when she was thirteen, and
because of the second world war, her babka was separated from her
great-grandmother at a very young age. Lora’s babka is a fantastic cook, and so
was her great-grandmother, so she would love to sit down with them to share a
dinner, three generations of women who made magic with food.
If Lora wasn’t a chef, she thinks she would have gone
either one of two ways: back to her roots as a farmer (probably raising ducks,
chickens or rabbits, which is what her parents raised) or a photographer. That
being said, Lora loves what she does as a chef. She considers herself a giving
person and wants to pay forward the care and dedication that the farmers showed
by growing these products in a way that resonates with diners. There are many
who come to Ruby Watchco who want to learn, and having a great team that is
knowledgeable, passionate and excited to share with diners is just one way to
realize Lora’s vision.
We had a wonderful time sitting down with Lora (and
meeting the newest addition to their family, baby Gemma Jet!). Lora has a lot
of wisdom and expertise born from her own family history and her extensive
culinary experience, and we feel truly lucky to have had such excellent support
from her over the years. She is an amazing champion and advocate of the local
food movement, and it was an absolute no-brainer to have her be part of our
Chef Matt would be the first to tell you he became a chef somewhat by accident. He got his first job working at a Kelsey’s in the dish pit and doing prep when he was a young teenager. He kept up with that job all throughout high school, and when he graduated, he made some forays into different areas: for a time he studied to be an electrician, and then business. He had a light bulb moment where he realized he’d been working in kitchens for years and had always enjoyed it, especially as he began to learn how to cook entirely from scratch. He finally thought: maybe I should be doing this as a career?! Matt’s father encouraged him to complete a post-secondary education, so he enrolled in George Brown for culinary arts. After he finished the program, he moved from Whitby to Toronto to work in restaurants, and hasn’t looked back since.
As Matt puts it, working in the restaurant business isn’t for the faint of heart: ‘It’s a really daunting business, it can be really long days and it can be really easy to get kind of down in the dumps.’ What keeps him passionate in such a demanding job? He says at the end of the day, it’s about the people, and there are two sides to that. On the one hand, it’s gratifying to look out on the dining room and see your guests enjoying their meals. On the other, you also get to meet the people growing your food. Their passion, Matt feels, invigorates and renews him in turn. Matt is also one of the biggest fans of the Meet and Greet we host annually for Chefs and Farmers, an opportunity he appreciates to deepen connections. We see him there every year without fail!
Matt Simpson’s relationship with 100km Foods is very special one. How does he source local products and plan his menus?
We also asked Matt specifically about his long relationship with 100km Foods, since as he says himself ‘you guys have a special place in my heart.’ Matt wasn’t one of those who grew up with a strong food history. He doesn’t have a lot of nostalgia or familial food memories that guide many other chefs. Instead, he has come to be a locavore through years of learning in kitchens and building relationships with farmers, and he feels 100km Foods has been a huge component in bridging that gap. When he’s choosing ingredients, he frames it this way: if he were travelling, what would he look for when he is eating out? A dish that gives him a sense of place, even if it’s a specific style of cuisine from another part of the world. At Constantine, Matt has a unique opportunity to do just that. It is a hotel that has a Mediterranean menu, but he infuses the cuisine with Ontario ingredients to showcase the terroir of Southern Ontario. It’s exciting and creates endless possibilities to be creative.
We turned then to the subject of sourcing local, and how to build a seasonal menu. Matt was firm on this: It’s not just about the idealistic picture of a farmer painstakingly harvesting to order, because sometimes that doesn’t always translate to high-quality ingredients chefs look for. It’s about both knowing the story and the traceability 100km Foods provides, as well as the guarantee that the products are excellent. When it comes to planning seasonally, Matt makes a great point: if you are attuned to the seasons in Ontario and plan accordingly, prices will be competitive. And if you find strawberries in the winter that aren’t super expensive, Matt thinks we need to start asking the hard questions: ‘Why isn’t it? Why wouldn’t something that’s grown (…) and then flown halfway across the continent be more expensive? Shouldn’t it be more expensive?’
That being said, he’s happy that today’s diner is more educated about how we source and grow our food, and they are the ones asking questions. Matt is more than happy to tell them the story of the farmers who grew what’s on their plate. He has other great advice for chefs: if you’re paying a premium for vegetables, make them the star of the plate. If you have the room and the means, buy whole animals and serve off cuts to keep your pricing in line. Since traceability is Matt’s #1 priority for sourcing, he makes sure that this translates to the back of house and the front of house staff, who can convey this to the guest. He isn’t exaggerating when he can say ‘I know the name of the farmers who grew this food’ and that is the kind of connection he wants, and one that he sees being appreciated more and more by guests. He says himself: ‘I want to live in a world where the little things matter.’ 100km Foods makes planning seasonally and sourcing local even easier, he says, since at any time he can ask us questions or use the seasonality calendar to help him plan ahead.
What are some of Matt’s FAVOURITE products from 100km Foods?
We asked Matt for some of his favourite products he sources through 100km. Without hesitation, he said ‘New Farm Greens.’ He can still remember the first time he tried them, thinking, oh it’s a handful of lettuce. He was blown away by them and said ‘you don’t even need dressing, it’s SO GOOD.’ We absolutely agree! Matt also loves k2 Milling saying that anything Mark Hayhoe touches is ‘gold to me.’ He loves the Algonquin grits, even making sure he has his own supply of k2 products in his kitchen at home! He also loves the Welsh Brothers sweet corn, citing it as ‘amazing.’ Lastly, he rhapsodized about the Highland Blue from Back Forty Artisan Cheese, saying it was one of his favourites (ours too!).
Naturally, we turned then to discussing what his favourite meals are to cook, to which Matt said ‘anything over live fire.’ Even simple, good ingredients can be turned into something awesome over the grill – asparagus with a little salt and pepper and steak being one of his go-to’s. He also loves making things in a terrine, or different kinds of paté. He really enjoys cooking for family and friends, and hosts a lot of dinner parties in his home.
Next, the hard question. When we asked Matt who he’d have dinner with, dead or alive, he couldn’t settle on one person. His first pick is Geddy Lee from Rush, because he’s a big foodie and eats in Toronto restaurants, and Matt thinks it would be awesome. He’d also love to eat with Alton Brown. And Paul McCartney. And George Harrison!
If it wasn’t clear by now, Matt’s second great love is music. If he wasn’t working as a Chef, he definitely thinks he’d want to do something with music. Matt’s father is a musician and instilled within Matt a good ear for music and a deep appreciation for it.
We loved sitting down with Matt to listen to him talk to us about local food. He’s knowledgeable and deeply committed to the ethos of 100km Foods – he truly walks the walk. We’re lucky to have always had such a great supporter in him, and we are thrilled to have him on board as one of our awesome ambassadors!
Welcome to the very first in our profile series on our 100km Foods Brand Ambassadors! We will be releasing each of these in turn over the coming weeks, so you have an opportunity to get to know our unique, talented, and passionate crew of Chef brand ambassadors.
Without further ado, let’s get to know Chef Ash Macneil from Farmhouse Tavern!
Chef Ash came to a pursue a culinary career after working for a decade in an office job and considering becoming an OPP officer. After realizing this career wasn’t for her, Ash’s friends and family encouraged her to explore her love of cooking in a more serious way. Ash took the plunge and started her culinary career by washing dishes five years ago this past Valentine’s Day! As Ash puts it, getting thrown into the dish pit on such a busy night and showing up again for her next shift was the first clue that she had what it took to thrive in the fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen.
Within a few months, Ash was on the line and getting into her stride working with food. She realized quickly how much she loved working in such a physically demanding and creative job. Becoming a Chef has of course had its own set of challenges, but overall Ash stays passionate because she pushes herself to exceed and learn every day. Since she took over as Chef at Farmhouse two years ago, she has particularly enjoyed developing a collaborative learning approach with the newer cooks she hires. Chef Ash, and Farmhouse Tavern located in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto, have been long time 100km Foods customers and one glance at their menu tells you how much they prioritize local ingredients in a genuine farm-to-table atmosphere.
Since Ash in some ways grew up as a Chef in Farmhouse, she is especially grateful to her previous Chef, Eoin. Eoin introduced her to the breadth of local products to source through 100km Foods and she was blown away by what she deems ‘fantastic’ quality ingredients. Eoin shared his knowledge with her to build a farm-to-table inspired menu, and the close relationship Ash has developed with us on her own terms is a huge reason why she is one of our very first ambassadors!
Planning A Seasonal, Local Menu
When it comes to sourcing and costing local ingredients, Ash loves how it challenges her to be creative and strategic. It’s winter in Ontario. What do you do if root vegetables is all that is in season? She encourages other Chefs: find new and different ways to use root veggies; figure out how to do squash eight ways. She firmly believes that ingredients sourced in season are not only better for you, they taste better. Ash also has a close relationship with her 100km sales rep – in this case – Rachel! Ash says, (and of course, we agree) that Rachels excellent breadth of knowledge about what’s in season has proven to be a valuable resource for Ash when making decisions. Ash also loves that, through 100km, she has been able to make connections with a larger network of farmers. As she says, “It’s created a kind of community for me that I can rely on for help, because I am still learning, and it’s really creating a network of support for me that I find really helpful!” Facilitating connections like these is at the core of 100km Foods is all about.
When we asked Ash about some of her favourite products she sources through 100km, the answer was very easy: CHEESE! Ash loves finding ways to work cheese into all kinds of dishes, which is something we can all get on board with. Lately, Ash has also been loving radishes – right now her menu features 5-6 types of radish in a variety of ways. Another one of her newest favourites are the frozen berries from Barrie Hill and Boreal Berry Farms – she makes a killer bread pudding for brunch service – which allows her to capture the freshness of summer even in the colder months. She’s also been one of the earliest converts to the King Cole Ducks whole duck with head and feet on. She says, “We tried using these ones and the meat is just unbelievable, it’s SO good. Here, we do a whole duck, so you get the legs and wings confit, and then to order we pull the breasts off and pan roast the breasts and deep fry the carcass, so you get the whole duck on the board with some seasonal veg. People are loving it, and we love when we can say its from King Cole.. that’s actually probably one of my new favourite things!”
We asked Ash what else she loves to cook, and she said although she doesn’t cook much at home, she does love making anything with eggs. She’s also gotten really into pickling and making soups and sauces. She particularly loves pickling blueberries – and serves them with some of their cheese boards.
When we asked her who she’d love to have dinner with, dead or alive, Ash decided she wanted to have dinner with someone who seems like they’d be adventurous – pick one of everything, share the meal, and have a good time. Ash settled on the Canadian actress Sandra Oh, which we think is an awesome answer!
We truly enjoyed having the chance to sit down with Chef Ash and talk to her about what it’s like being a newer chef in the Toronto food industry. We love that she is both humble, creative, and eager to learn. Her enthusiasm for connecting with our network of farms and showcasing what Ontario has to offer reminds us every day of how lucky we are to bridge the community of Chefs and Farmers in such a special way. We can’t wait to see what else Ash gets up to this year as one of our 100km ambassadors!
You asked for it, and here it is: Planet Shrimp is now available through 100km Foods!!
Making ethical choices when purchasing seafood can be a tricky beast. At this point, it’s not news that climate change portends big changes for our oceans. Business as usual just won’t cut it for much longer. Innovative inland operations like Planet Shrimp are one way in which we can all move forward and continue to consume the foods we love, but in a far more sustainable way.
The State of Shrimp
Right now, North America consumes 1.8 billion pounds of shrimp, with the vast majority (over 90%) being imported. Around the globe, Pacific White Shrimp is the most widely consumed, and is the same species grown by Planet Shrimp. Mainstream shrimp production involves outdoor ponds in hot and humid climates. Most of the worlds supply of shrimp is farmed from Asia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and parts of South America. For many reasons, these nations do not have the environmental and labour regulations we have in Canada.
All farmers know: losing a crop due to disease can have devastating financial consequences. Outdoor shrimp ponds are particularly susceptible to numerous sources of pathogens and contaminants. Because of this, shrimp farms typically use a high number of pesticides and fungicides as well as hormones and antibiotics in the shrimp feed to prevent devastating diseases like White Spot and Early Mortality Syndrome.
Then there’s the labour and human rights issues associated with commercial shrimp farms overseas. This has gotten a lot of press the past few years, and unfortunately, things do not appear to have substantively changed. If you’re interested in learning more about the human rights abuses rife within the fishing industry, check out the Human Rights Watch report from January 2018 “Hidden Chains: Rights Abuses and Forced Labour in Thailand’s Fishing Industry.”
So, what sets Planet Shrimp apart?
Much like Fogo Island Fish, Planet Shrimp is a company that is founded on values of environmental, social and corporate responsibility. It differs from mainstream shrimp farms in crucial ways. As Marvyn Budd, one of the owners of Planet Shrimp says, “Planet Shrimp’s model for shrimp farming represents everything outdoor farming isn’t! We farm indoors and therefore control the environment eliminating 100% of the natural causes of disease from affecting our shrimp.”
Planet Shrimp farms in pure and clear water containing natural ocean salt, using a UV and ozone filtration system that recirculates the water every 90 minutes, neutralizing any potential bacteria. The little shrimps are fed every half hour, 24 hours a day. They also cavort in waters calibrated to stay a balmy 30 degrees Celsius, ensuring they are delighted and well-fed. Budd likens this to living in a “shrimp spa!”
Another bonus: since the water Planet Shrimp uses is pathogen free they can use a much lower salinity than is typical for other shrimp operations, which lends itself to a clearer shrimp taste (rather than salt water!).
The shrimp are harvested daily and processed very quickly. It takes less than eight minutes to have them frozen whole and packaged.
All these factors go into producing some of the cleanest, tastiest shrimp you can get, possessing a delicately sweet flavour and a firm bite that chefs and restaurant customers alike will love. Planet Shrimp is also a certified FeastOn Purveyor and OceanWise certified! We have both the frozen large and jumbo shrimp available. We can’t wait to see what you do with it!
An enormous thank you to the folks at Planet Shrimp, particularly to Marvyn Budd who provided a wonderful depth of information and Shannon Quinn for the pictures!
Eggs categorized as ‘Free Run’ have surged in popularity over the past few years, as Canadian consumers learn more about our food systems. Animal rights activists have done a great job in getting consumers to think about the ethics regarding the conditions behind the food they purchase and consume, especially when it comes to dairy and eggs.
This is excellent! At 100km Foods, we really value transparency and traceability, and we’ve carefully vetted our meat, dairy and egg producers to ensure the animals are treated with care and dignity.
But things have shifted somewhat. As the term ‘free run’ became something consumers look for when purchasing eggs, the bigger, corporate controlled farms also wanted to cash in on the ethical impulse behind consumer purchases. Now, you can find free-run eggs in almost any grocery store.
What makes Homestead Eggs different?
So what makes the Free Run eggs from Homestead a cut above the rest? Why can’t you find their eggs in any of the big retailers and grocery store chains?
We spoke to Pat White at Homestead Farm about what free run really means for her eggs, she gave us great insight. Homestead has been our long-time farm partner at 100km Foods. Homestead is both a small grading station and has a flock of their own, in operation since 1983. They also source from neighbouring Amish and Mennonite farm communities nearby.
The major difference with these Free Run eggs is that they come from small flocks that receive a high level of care. Like, REALLY small flocks. In total, Homestead sources eggs from only 55 different flocks with hundreds of birds. With larger free-run egg farmers, they have flocks easily numbering in the thousands.
Pat (who has developed personal relationships with the farmers she sources from) also pointed out that in many of these rural communities, looking after the chicken flocks and selling the eggs is a job that often falls to women. In fact, for some of these women, it is one of their only sources of income to buy groceries and other necessities for their family. Flocks tend to frighten very easily, which can disrupt their laying patterns. Since these flocks are an essential part of these farmers livelihoods, they want to make sure the hens keep laying. They take great care to ensure their flocks are kept calm, happy, and cared for.
What else sets them apart?
Homestead is also a very small grading station that uses less automated machinery with a more involved approach. They have various employees at different stations along the line, all of them paying close attention to any imperfections. There’s even someone who has a special light they shine on each and every egg to detect any interior imperfections! This kind of care and detail oriented attention to grading means Homestead grades 50 cases an hour, as opposed to the big guys who grade up to 400 cases an hour. And even though they might grade a little slower, they make up for it in the absolutely top notch quality of all their eggs.
This is why we have adjusted the description on Homestead’s Free Run eggs. They aren’t just average eggs you can find in any grocery store – they truly are ‘Small-Flock.’