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Show #16/4803. The Freshest Food Imaginable

Summary of Show

Terry Koval
That is why TERRY KOVAL, the executive chef at the Wrecking Bar in Atlanta is so passionate about sourcing all of his food locally. Terry is a chef who came from humble beginnings and has earned his place alongside the most decorated chefs in the Southeast. In this Episode we step back into the kitchen with Terry and talk about the challenges that go into running a farm to table restaurant as well as the great satisfaction he gains from making world-class food with the highest quality ingredients.
For More Information Click Here.

Terry’s Food Aesthetics
Eric next wants to discuss TERRY’S FOOD AESTHETICS. Every chef that Eric talks to, and many of his best friends are chefs, have ingredients that they love working with and they have certain types of cooking that they particularly enjoy. What excites Terry about food? By that he means day to day. Terry says that they really work off the cuff, it's like whatever is cut, whatever is available, what is being harvested that week.
For More Information Click Here.

The Guys Start Cooking
Eric knows Terry is most at home in the kitchen, so suggests they go there and START COOKING. Today Terry is cooking tongue in cheek, it's one of the favorite dishes on their menu. They can’t seem to take it off because everybody seems to enjoy it so much. Eric wants to know what ingredients Terry is working working with? For this dish he uses beef cheek and then a little beef tongue. The beef cheek is slow brazed. As well he has brazed, some local chili's, some garlic, you know, and a little stock. Eric comments that it smells great.
For More Information Click Here.

Nutritional Quality
The NUTRITIONAL QUALITY is a huge advantage, because they haven't been on an airplane for two days or picked green and then gassed, there are so many advantages. They are not sprayed with pesticides, they are grown with nutrients in the soil. And when you are buying local produce like that from local folks, you are reinvesting back into the soil because the soil is what is giving the nutrients to the vegetables.
For More Information Click Here.

Seasonal Planning
Eric wants to know how Terry works with the farm in putting together and PLANNING the vegetables they are going to grow. Is that an annual or semi-annual meeting he has with growers? Well, right before spring they kind of sit down and talk about seeds. He let’s them know what he is looking for, what kind of varieties he wants. And wants to know what are some of the things that other people aren't growing or have stopped growing?
For More Information Click Here.

Eric Meets Rachel
Eric next MEETS RACHEL. Rachel has the enviable job of growing the food for, not only, the Wrecking Bar but also the CSA that she supports. Eric opines this must be an amazing job. How did she get involved in horticulture, what sparked her interest in gardening? It was purely a whim. Rachel had a friend who had started gardening and was working for a farmer in Atlanta. She came to visit, it was his birthday and he was like hey I don't have the day off, why don't you come work on this farm with us. So she came out, volunteered, and just fell in love with it immediately.
For More Information Click Here.

Summer Vegetables
Eric comments that we are enjoying the wonderful heat of Georgia, it’s late summer, and there is a lot going on right now. He would like to talk about the SUMMER VEGETABLES, the ones Rachel is growing right now. He sees a number of unusual plants that she is working with, particularly vegetables one doesn’t often see. What has she grown this year? Well summer is the time of fruiting things so right now they have okra, peppers and eggplant. They just finished with tomatoes.
For More Information Click Here.

World Of Vegetables
Eric loves the purple okra. Exploring what exists in the WORLD OF VEGETABLES and how much fun we can have just going through seed catalogs is fun. Then choosing what seems exciting as a gardener, as a horticulturist is also fun. Rachel has learned a lot about what works in the area and what doesn’t. Sometimes the pretty stuff in the seed catalog doesn't quite work for Georgia but sometimes it does, and that is exciting.
For More Information Click Here.

Year Round Crops
Eric would like to know more about Rachel’s job. A significant portion of your job is making sure that you have, to the best of your ability, something going on YEAR ROUND, and would like to know some of her tricks for plants that really work well with that paradigm. Since they have more space than most, at this farm, they tried to go big on storage crops.
For More Information Click Here.

Spring To Summer To Fall
Eric would like for Rachel to walk us through the seasons, from SPRING TO SUMMER TO FALL. What kind of crops is she putting in the ground and what is she taking out? Springtime is usually the time for roots and leaves, the same as fall. Earlier, summer is more of the fruiting kind of time of the year - corn, tomatoes, peppers, all that good stuff and then fall is kind of a repeat of spring.
For More Information Click Here.

Tumeric
One of the more interesting crops that they are growing, that Eric would love to highlight, is TUMERIC. It is a wonderful root, a tuber, that many people may be familiar with. It's a cousin of ginger, also a great ornamental. These plants in flower are wonderfully fragrant, they are beautiful, the foliage is great.
For More Information Click Here.

Cover Crops
COVER CROPS are a very important way of keeping the soil healthy and getting the soil ready for its next cycle. Especially beneficial are plants like clover. They are nitrogen fixers, they capture nitrogen from the air and then are able to be return it into the soil. And many of those plants are very attractive plants too.
For More Information Click Here.

LINKS:

Wrecking Bar Brew Pub

Wrecking Barn Farm

 

Show #16/4803. The Freshest Food Imaginable

Complete Transcript of Show

Farm to table is much more than a concept. It's a way for us to enjoy the freshest possible food available. In this Episode GardenSMART spends the day with men and women who have made this labor of love their livelihood.

A farm to table restaurant was nearly unheard of 20 years ago and whether one considers it a fad or a trend today, it is very much a return to the original relationship that the kitchen has always had with the garden. With the globalization of our food supply many consumers have become much more focused on where their food comes from and how it’s grown. This has lead to the steady rise of farmers markets, CSA's, and restaurants that are focused on sourcing as much as they can from local farmers.
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That is why TERRY KOVAL, the executive chef at the Wrecking Bar in Atlanta is so passionate about sourcing all of his food locally. Terry is a chef who came from humble beginnings and has earned his place alongside the most decorated chefs in the Southeast. In this Episode we step back into the kitchen with Terry and talk about the challenges that go into running a farm to table restaurant as well as the great satisfaction he gains from making world-class food with the highest quality ingredients. From there we'll visit their sister organization, Wrecking Barn Farm, which supplies much of the food for the restaurant and catch up with Rachel Hennon, their horticulturist to get a behind the scenes look into what it takes to grow food year round for a CSA, multiple farmers markets, and a high volume restaurant.

Eric welcomes Terry and thanks him for joining us on GardenSMART. Terry in turn thanks Eric. Eric confesses, he spent many years working in kitchens, is an avid home cook but must say that some of the years he spent working in a kitchen were some of the most miserable times he ever had. It's a really, really hard job, thus Eric has tremendous admiration for people who have made this their life passion. Eric knows because it’s really, really hard work Terry must have a lot of love for what he does to choose to do this as a life. Terry agrees and comments “absolutely." One thing that is really important for Terry is to know is where his food is coming from, who’s growing it, how they're growing it as well as the passion that they are putting into it. Terry wants to make sure they’re putting just as much passion into growing that food as he and his team are putting into cooking it. One thing that Terry likes is knowing when they come through the back door and say, hey chef this is what I've got for you. They want to show you their food, it’s beautiful and they are really excited about it. They’re showing it to the chef and they are really excited about how the kitchen will be cooking it. And then within a couple of hours or maybe even the next couple of days they are coming in through your front door and are sitting down in the restaurant eating the food that they grew and that you prepared. You know that's true satisfaction, that’s what makes Terry really proud of what he's doing. It’s the full circle of community. You want to invest in your community and by investing in your local ag you know they’re in your community and when they are coming back in and sitting in the seats, it's pure satisfaction.

Eric understands and wants to know what initially got Terry involved in cooking? He is a self-taught chef, correct? Yes, it just kind of happened. He started in kitchens as a dishwasher, when he was fifteen, just to get a paycheck. His Dad was like - you are fifteen, time to get a job. So Terry kind of gravitated to the kitchen, it's where all the misfits went. A lot of his buddies were working in kitchens, it was just a bunch of misfits, a lot of loud talking, a lot of loud music and just high energy. The energy of the kitchen was just really exciting, he just kind of gravitated to that. And there were always goals in the kitchen, you start as a dishwasher and then next you want to be a grill guy, then a sous chef. You always had a goal, something you were reaching towards. When he got to, about 24, he decided he wanted to do this professionally thus moved to Atlanta to become a professional chef.
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Eric next wants to discuss TERRY’S FOOD AESTHETICS. Every chef that Eric talks to, and many of his best friends are chefs, have ingredients that they love working with and they have certain types of cooking that they particularly enjoy. What excites Terry about food? By that he means day to day. Terry says that they really work off the cuff, it's like whatever is cut, whatever is available, what is being harvested that week. And that is really exciting. The seasons, they change, so that is really exciting, that makes you creative when you are cooking. It's sort of like all of a sudden corn is in. So, yeah corn, what are we going to do with corn. That part is really exciting. They print their menu every day and that allow the cooks a lot of creativity. And they thrive on that, they feed off each other on that. When the cooks say chef, lets do this, lets do that, it excites Terry. It's like they're growing, he is growing, they are all learning. They are all in a really positive environment, they're being creative and that excites Terry.

Really fresh food is being harvested that week and as far as ingredients they really don't have any limits. It's like they might do, for example, some South African flavor or they might do some Mediterranean, or they might do some Vietnamese type food, it’s whatever they’re kind of feeling for the week.
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Eric knows Terry is most at home in the kitchen, so suggests they go there and START COOKING. Today Terry is cooking tongue in cheek, it's one of the favorite dishes on their menu. They can’t seem to take it off because everybody seems to enjoy it so much. Eric wants to know what ingredients Terry is working working with? For this dish he uses beef cheek and then a little beef tongue. The beef cheek is slow brazed. As well he has brazed, some local chili's, some garlic, you know, and a little stock. Eric comments that it smells great. Then he has a little tomato gravy. This is one way when you get a lot of tomato seconds (and by that he means product most folks don’t want because they don’t look as pretty), it's a good way to utilize those seconds. Instead of wasting them and throwing them in the compost or throwing them to the hogs, they kind of puree them and you make a nice little sauce out of it so it's a tomato gravy for this dish. Then he has the beef tongue and he will make like a little ragu out of that. Add a little butter, a little garlic and some fresh shallots. Get that going, let that butter melt and get that garlic and the shallots toasted before we throw in our vegetables that came in this week. Bringing vegetables in fresh from the farm, outside of just the fact that they taste so much better, there are huge health implications too with buying vegetables that we know were raised right down the road.
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The NUTRITIONAL QUALITY is a huge advantage, because they haven't been on an airplane for two days or picked green and then gassed, there are so many advantages. They are not sprayed with pesticides, they are grown with nutrients in the soil. And when you are buying local produce like that from local folks, you are reinvesting back into the soil because the soil is what is giving the nutrients to the vegetables. And if you have good soil that you are growing food with, you are going to get more nutrients in your food. And, that’s a wonderful component of composting as well. There are a lot of the things that come out of the restaurant that go back into the soil via composting. By doing that you are reintroducing so many of the the micronutrients that a plant needs to actually be healthy instead of just the nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, that synthetic fertilizers typically contain and are used typically in modern agriculture. If you don't give the plant adequate calcium and magnesium it doesn't pass through the vegetable onto the plate. Terry finds it very important when purchasing food that is grown locally and seasonally you're kind of helping fix a food system that has been broken. By purchasing from folks that you know, and you know those folks invest in soil, they are investing in time and they are investing in growing healthy food, food that has come full circle instead of buying foods that have been processed. So much of our food that comes from the grocery store is processed. Our food system has been made easy - easy for us to cook at home, easy to eat. But many of the nutrients have been taken out. So Terry takes pride in and enjoys cooking with fresh, locally grown food, he feels he’s a part of changing a broken food system.

Eric notices that Terry has just added a bunch of okra and squash. And wants to know if that is squash he’s cooking? Yup, and some okra from the farm that they got this past Monday. A large part of the fun thing about this dish is that they can kind of change it, as the seasons move on or the weeks move on, depending on what's harvested. For example, in the wintertime this dish might have a potato puree with some kale or some collard greens. But for now he will add some fresh vegetables. The okra was harvested this past Monday. Terry will sauté that just a little and then add some of the beef tongue. Eric wants to know what's coming up next? We are towards the end of summer, are now going to start seeing some of the the cooler season crops coming on board. What is coming down the chute? Potatoes and sweet potatoes at the farm are coming available right now. There is a beautiful field of sweet potatoes, all the leaves are looking great. One can actually bend down and eat a leaf and it is really tasty. They will have sautéed sweet potato greens. Potatoes are starting to come around and then you start getting a lot of the kale, collard greens, a lot of exciting stuff. It's really great to kind of cook through the seasons.

Back to the dish at hand. Next Terry will add some cherry tomatoes, he will keep these on the raw side to kind of give a nice little pop in the dish. It looks beautiful. Terry points out that there is juice in the tomatoes and will pour that juice on the dish to add a little acidity. Visually it's so colorful and vivid. Terry wants to have a lot of flavors, you want a lot of acidity, you want crunch, he tries to achieve all of that with a dish. And have fun. One of the things that he enjoys about this dish is they have utilized cuts that don't typically get utilized. For example, the beef cheek and tongue, these aren't your typical items on your typical menu or in your grocery store. But it is Terry's way to kind of showcase a piece of the animal that doesn’t get utilized and it can be delicious. It is being sustainable. Every cow has a cheek, every cow has a tongue. What happens if the farmer is not selling those items? Thrown away? That's not really sustainable for the farmer. By purchasing them from your farmer they are not going to get thrown out. All of Terry’s beef cheek and tongue are from White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia. And, they put a lot of passion into growing their animals from birth to slaughter. Care is taken with that animal. Terry respects everything they do and they do it humanely. Eric does want to know what the preparation is for the tongue? They pickle it for a week, kind of like a pastrami pickle, and then smoke them for about nine hours. After that they let it rest and then just do a nice little dice on it and it’s ready to go.
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Eric wants to know how Terry works with the farm in putting together and PLANNING the vegetables they are going to grow. Is that an annual or semi-annual meeting he has with growers? Well, right before spring they kind of sit down and talk about seeds. He let’s them know what he is looking for, what kind of varieties he wants. And wants to know what are some of the things that other people aren't growing or have stopped growing? Are there some seeds that are new, or others they might bring back and kind of grow, that haven't been grown for a couple years? It's all really exciting - it’s exciting for the farmer, it’s exciting for the chef, it’s exciting for the cooks, it’s exciting for the servers and it’s exciting for the guests. It’s exciting and, you know, that’s what food should be. It should be exciting.

Terry shows the plated the tongue in cheek meal. He spreads the tomato puree on the plate, it kind of cools down the flavor, sprinkles a little sea salt on top, adds some beautiful micro-basil from Aluma Farm (They kind of specialize in micro-greens. And have some really powerful micro-greens with a lot of punch, a lot of flavor in there.) Terry feels that's the difference between typical basil, where one doesn't really get that punch of basil, and this super fresh basil. And that's another thing that is great about working with all these folks. Eric absolutely agrees, and thanks Terry for his time. It's always a pleasure and an honor to see him cook. Thank you so much. Cheers.
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Eric next MEETS RACHEL. Rachel has the enviable job of growing the food for, not only, the Wrecking Bar but also the CSA that she supports and several farmer’s markets. Eric opines this must be an amazing job. How did she get involved in horticulture, what sparked her interest in gardening? It was purely a whim. Rachel had a friend who had started gardening and was working for a farmer in Atlanta. She came to visit, it was his birthday and he was like hey I don't have the day off, why don't you come work on this farm with us. So she came out, volunteered, and just fell in love with it immediately. She couldn't shake that urge to get back outside and has had the gardening bug ever since. Eric knows things are ever changing here but what are Rachel's responsibilities, what does a typical day in the life of Rachel look like? Well it’s a little bit of everything. Planning, planning crop rotation, schedules for seeding, when stuff needs to be seeded in the greenhouse and when it needs to be put in the ground. Then on the other end of that - when it needs to be taken out of the ground, when to put the cover crops in and when to start thinking about the next crop that is going to go in. In addition to the planting and harvesting, marketing is a whole other thing. The list goes on. Wow, Eric is impressed and wants to be put to work, let's get started.
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Eric comments that we are enjoying the wonderful heat of Georgia, it’s late summer, and there is a lot going on right now. He would like to talk about the SUMMER VEGETABLES, the ones Rachel is growing right now. He sees a number of unusual plants that she is working with, particularly vegetables one doesn’t often see. What has she grown this year? Well summer is the time of fruiting things so right now they have okra, peppers and eggplant. They just finished with tomatoes. The tomatoes didn’t love the heat and the lack of water early in the year as much as some of the other things like cucumbers and squash. They also had some fall squash that is actually grown at the same time. They seed it and plant it at the same time as summer squash. As well they have a couple varieties of corn, although the early corn didn't do super great. But their second round of corn is doing super right now. These are all items that the chef mentioned that he particularly wanted to work with, thus Rachel and her crew then planted them. Terry kind of has a wish list, then Rachel has a wish list of her own and they meet in the middle.
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Eric loves the purple okra. Exploring what exists in the WORLD OF VEGETABLES and how much fun we can have just going through seed catalogs is fun. Then choosing what seems exciting as a gardener, as a horticulturist is also fun. Rachel has learned a lot about what works in the area and what doesn’t. Sometimes the pretty stuff in the seed catalog doesn't quite work for Georgia but sometimes it does, and that is exciting. Eric wants to know if there are any in particular that she would recommend to a home gardener that may have a little more of a challenging site. For example they most likely don’t have a big farm with irrigation. So, what are some of the summer vegetables that she’s been really happy with? Rachel thinks for a home gardener, it makes sense to go with something that’s super duper productive, something that consistently produces lots of good fruit. Sun Gold tomatoes are a hit for a reason, they are super dependable, really flavorful, and keep producing, they're very prolific. Okra produces for a long time and it's kind of hard to kill unless you have lots of deer around. And they do. But for the most part you put it in the ground and it kind of does its thing. You do have to pick it quite frequently but one gets a fair amount of bang for the buck.

Everything here is organic, they are not working with any synthetic fertilizers, no chemicals. They do have irrigation. But what kind of challenges does that pose to growing things? From a growing standpoint, with a farm this big, one of her biggest problems is keeping up with the weeds. They are kind of in between having the big kind of tractor implements and mechanical cultivation. So a lot of it is done by hand. They try to use plastic in some places to keep weeds and moisture down but, again, a lot of it is done by hand.

Corn can be a pretty tricky crop to grow and for a lot of homeowners Eric wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless one had enough space which is important for getting good cross-pollination. Plus one can see these plants take up a fair amount of space. Giving them enough room for adequate photosynthesis is important. This year Rachel tried two different crops of corn and clearly there is a huge difference between the first go at it and the second. Rachel has been thinking a lot about why the difference. The first round she actually really babied, she spread a lot of compost, she was sure to give it the correct amount of needed nitrogen since it's a heavy feeder. She planted it at the end of April and at that time this year they just didn't get any rain. So from germination to maturity it received very little rain at all. It was all fed by their drip irrigation system. The second round was planted the beginning of June which worked out well because they started getting consistent rain at that time of year. So it germinated in rain and just shot up, it was as happy as could be. She didn't even put compost down in this area. She has been thinking about that and did some research and just recently found out that rain actually contains nitrates which was new to her. Eric adds some information - yes, that's especially valuable for corn. We are talking about a grass or a monocot, it's a c 4 plant, which means it has to have a lot of Ammoniacal nitrogen. Broad leaf plants use more nitrate nitrogen, which is then broken down through bacterial processes. But with corn, especially since water is the number one most important nutrient for all plants (don't let anyone tell you differently), water is the most important nutrient. So the timing of the occurrence of rainwater, which is super high in nitrogen, really, really gives one an edge with corn. So one can't always do anything about timing of rain but when it is on your side you can definitely see it helps. It’s like magic.
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Eric would like to know more about Rachel’s job. A significant portion of your job is making sure that you have, to the best of your ability, something going on YEAR ROUND, and would like to know some of her tricks for plants that really work well with that paradigm. Since they have more space than most, at this farm, they tried to go big on storage crops. They planted entire fields of butternut squash, spaghetti squash and blue peppered squash which did really well for them. As well they planted a lot of sweet potatoes, which are coming in now. Sweet potatoes are a wonderful example of a crop where in the summer, right now, you have got the greens that are edible and then the tubers, which come later. It's great when it's hard to find a good green to eat in the summer. A lot of things like the bowl greens get bitter but the sweet potato green is actually really, really mild. They harvested the greens this AM for the CSA’s and they will go in those bags this week.
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Eric would like for Rachel to walk us through the seasons, from SPRING TO SUMMER TO FALL. What kind of crops is she putting in the ground and what is she taking out? Springtime is usually the time for roots and leaves, the same as fall. Earlier, summer is more of the fruiting kind of time of the year - corn, tomatoes, peppers, all that good stuff and then fall is kind of a repeat of spring. They may throw in a few other vegetables that do a little better in fall than spring in there as well. And so, is winter just a time of resting the ground. That time of year they include cover crops in the rotation so they often have one or two fields that have stuff in them. Also, they plant onions, strawberries, and garlic in the fall and then cover them and kind of keep them warm in the winter so they are ready for spring.
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One of the more interesting crops that they are growing, that Eric would love to highlight, is TUMERIC. It is a wonderful root, a tuber, that many people may be familiar with. It's a cousin of ginger, also a great ornamental. These plants in flower are wonderfully fragrant, they are beautiful, the foliage is great. But often times we don't think about turmeric in terms of like another plant that we could grow along with our other fruits and vegetables. This is the first time Rachel is growing it. They have a variety pack and a few different varieties going just to experiment and see what happens. It's a fun little tropical plant to add to their arsenal. It's a wonderful plant to cook with, it has a lot of the health benefits. It’s loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin A and is a wonderful seasoning. People will often use it in middle eastern food. Eric even likes it in juices and is great with stir-fry foods.
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COVER CROPS are a very important way of keeping the soil healthy and getting the soil ready for its next cycle. Especially beneficial are plants like clover. They are nitrogen fixers, they capture nitrogen from the air and then are able to be return it into the soil. And many of those plants are very attractive plants too. One will notice a lot of buckwheat around here, it is one they love. It is super quick, great to have between a spring planting and a fall planting, it only takes about four to five weeks from seeding to blooming and they have gorgeous, white flowers. It attracts all kinds of pollinators and butterflies, stuff like that. It's a great plant.

In this Episode GardenSMART has worked alongside a chef and a farmer who work in concert to bring their customers the freshest food imaginable. We have also picked up some great tips on how we can be more successful growing vegetables at home. It’s been a fun and educational day.

Eric thanks Rachel for spending the day with us. We’ve learned so much. It is always a pleasure visiting the farm. Rachel returns the compliment and thanks Eric for visiting.

LINKS:

Wrecking Bar Brew Pub

Wrecking Barn Farm

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