An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 29, 2014
12:50 PM
The Connecticut Table

Farm-to-Table Cooking Classes With Northwest Connecticut Flavors

Farm-to-Table Cooking Classes With Northwest Connecticut Flavors

Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times

Carrots from Chubby Bunny Farm in Falls Village.

As befitting the approach of high harvest season, August will see the continuation of the popular Noble Horizons and Scoville Memorial Library collaboration on Farm-to-Table cooking classes, in which local chefs use seasonal, locally-grown ingredients to create delectable and simple summer meals.

No. 9 Restaurant chef-owner Tim Cocheo (below right) will be featured Aug.15, with produce from Weatogue Farm in Salisbury, and on Sept. 13, Executive Chef Brandon Scimeca of the Interlaken Inn (below left) will cook with ingredients from Chubby Bunny Farm in Falls Village.

Chef Cocheo is known for his commitment to local purveyors and the restaurant’s local farm dinners. His class will take place in the Community Room at Noble Horizons in Salisbury on Aug. 15 from 11 a.m. to noon.

“The Farm-to-Table classes have been extremely well received by restaurants, farms, the community and the media,” said Caroline Kenny Burchfield, the director of community relations for Noble Horizons. “We are considering a fourth class with an additional chef and purveyor for early October.”

The chefs in the Farm-to-Table series share preparation techniques that optimize the flavor and ease of cooking meals with seasonal and locally grown ingredients. Farmers discuss their products and give highlights of the season. Samples of the prepared foods are offered, and ingredients from some of the farms are available for purchase. Guests with a valid Connecticut Library card will be able to borrow from a wide selection of Scoville Library cookbooks.

Says Kenny Burchfield, “To ensure that we had enough food and that our guests could better engage in and enjoy the experience, we capped enrollment at 30 for the first class, although 35 slipped in, most of whom have already signed up for the Aug. 15 class.”

The series was initiated, she said, because “We wanted to recognize and celebrate the efforts of our community professionals who have made a commitment to growing and sourcing the freshest, healthiest ingredients. Knowing that local farmers and chefs committed to staying local face unique challenges as well as distinct rewards, we sought to highlight the many benefits of eating locally grown foods, supporting local farmers and patronizing the restaurants that support local farms. We also wanted community members to learn how easy it is to cook outstanding and simple meals with the ingredients grown and sold right in our own community.”

Kenny Burchfield said one of the goals of the series is to enable residents to learn more about, better understand and more fully appreciate the value of local food, local farms, and the direct and indirect benefits of supporting them.

“To facilitate that, our classes showcase the ease with which respected local chefs utilize these exceptional, seasonal ingredients and how home chefs can adapt their techniques to prepare delicious, simple and healthy meals, while supporting the local economy and sustainable food and farm practices,” she said.

She added, “Noble Horizons believes strongly in the importance of contributing to our local communities. We enjoy welcoming community members to our beautiful campus and are grateful to the many professionals in our region who offer their skills, passions and energy to help us provide stimulating, educational and exciting events for residents of the tri-state region.”

(Above, a poster for the July class)

“We’ve run the first program and people loved it,” said Lawrence Davis-Hollander, the adult program coordinator for the Scoville library. “How can you not love fresh, local, well-made food? We had good attendance, people really enjoyed themselves, they learned something and asked questions, and the chef was engaged and engaging. We saw some new faces, and a few people borrowed books from the library.”

Davis-Hollander said the library “strongly supports” collaborations and the local community.

“We are a center for speakers on a wide range of topics. Thus the library is a resource in many ways, not just for borrowing books or DVDs,” he said. “We are happy to bring different groups and community members together to learn, discuss, and explore. The library wants to highlight the importance of food and local food systems, our local farmers as well as consuming a healthier diet. So, as with everything the library does, we hope to educate people, build awareness, and have people enjoy themselves.”

He said that, typically, the Scoville Memorial Library doesn’t offer a lot of summer programming because “people tend to be distracted by the myriad of events taking place regionally.”

He added about the series, “We wanted to offer something that would appeal to people in this season and cover the whole early to late summer harvest cycle. We also wanted to collaborate with Noble Horizons, one of our nearby esteemed institutions, which also does a lot for the community. While most our programs take place in the library, this is a great way to get out in the world ... if you consider a mile down the road in Salisbury as the world. Events like these, and our speaker series, are all considered important by us.”

Chef Cocheo’s food offers a bold New American menu with French and Austrian overtones. The menu, always local and seasonal, including local produce, local meats and local artisanal cheeses, makes every plate a gastronomic experience. Attendees can enjoy unique spirits, crisp salads and appetizers, flavorful, fresh meals and rich desserts for an incomparable farm to table meal.

In November 2009, Cocheo and his wife, Taryn, opened No. 9 Restaurant in Millerton, N.Y. They live in Dutchess County, New York, with their three daughters, Samantha, Ella and Charlotte. No. 9 Restaurant truly is a family affair. You will often find Chef Cocheo doing chef demonstrations at the Millerton Farmers Market with Samantha and Ella helping and Taryn Cocheo and Charlotte close by.

Cocheo grew up watching his Croatian immigrant grandparents cultivate their fruit and vegetable gardens and watching his grandfather make wine. This experience helped shape Chef Cocheo’s appreciation of the farm-to-table movement and sharing the pleasure of food with others.

After studying history and art at Manhattanville College, Chef Cocheo attended the French Culinary Institute. He then worked at some of the best restaurants in New York City, including La Caravelle, The Mark Restaurant, and Wallse. After his first daughter, Samantha, was born in 2005, he decided to move out of the city and started working as a sous chef at The Wheatleigh in Lenox, Mass.

Cocheo said he was inspired by the beauty of the Hudson Valley and the local foods available there and opened The Bottletree in 2007. His French training and diverse work experience shaped his philosophy of fresh, seasonal, local flavors.

Weatogue Farm is just a mile away from Noble Horizons, and members of the farm family have lived and volunteered at Noble Horizons.

Brandon Scimeca, formerly a chef with Alice Waters and currently of the Interlaken Inn, will be the series’ chef on Sept. 13, using produce from Chubby Bunny Farm in Falls Village.

The July chef was Andy Cox of The Hotchkiss School, who used grass-fed beef provided by Whippoorwill Farm and vegetables from Chubby Bunny Farm. (Cox, above, at his class, in a photo from the Noble Horizons blog.)

Scimeca has long been a highly respected innovator in the national farm to table movement and serves on boards of organizations that advance safe and sustainable farming practices. He was born and raised just outside New Orleans. During high school he worked a various restaurants in Atlanta, most notably Bacchanalia, its top-rated restaurant. From there he attended the Culinary Institute of America. Upon graduation he left the East Coast and moved to California with only one goal, to work at Chez Panisse, where he did work, and later at Oliveto.

Many years before it was commonplace, he developed his love of seasonality, farmers markets, and product-driven cuisine. He embarked on a whirlwind tour of traveling, eating and cooking in France, Spain, Italy, New York, Chicago, and Sedona. He and his wife, Juliet, wanted a slower pace and country setting to raise their family, so they relocated to the Berkshires and settled into the Interlaken Inn. His cuisine is a representation of New American with explorations in traditional cuisines of the world.

Cox is well-known for his transformation of the Hotchkiss School kitchen to an almost 100 percent regionally sourced food operation, as well as his work on and use of ingredients grown on the school farm. Whippoorwill Farm grazes cattle on the Hotchkiss farm, and has been raising grass fed cattle for many years. The farm has been a local leader in the farm-to-table movement. Chubby Bunny Farm is widely respected for the quality of its produce and earth-friendly farming practices.

Registration for the classes is limited and may be completed at www.noblehorizons.org, or by calling 860-435-2838.

Editor's note: This story appears in the August issue of LCT magazine, a publication of The Litchfield County Times.

Farm-to-Table Cooking Classes With Northwest Connecticut Flavors

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