Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teaching students the farm-to-table-to-craft beer connection

by Lacey Griebeler, Chef Educator Today

Editor's note: This article was mentioned on page 6 of the November 2009 issue of Chef Educator Today.

Back in September, I had the chance to attend Denver's Great American Beer Festival (GABF), which included the Farm to Table Pavilion. This inaugural event was organized by the Culinary School of the Rockies (CSR) of Boulder, Colo. The students worked in association with independent craft brewers and local chefs, farmers and ranchers to create beer and food pairings for two groups of 250 select GABF attendees. The students impressed me with their professionalism and their dedication to creating amicable pairings using local ingredients and craft beer.

CSR chef-instructor Adam Duyle was there to oversee the event. Duyle took a few minutes to talk with me on the philosophy behind teaching students about craft beer and local food pairings.

CET: How did this program get started?
Duyle: The program got started basically to recognize the need for a farm to table program, to teach people how to work with a farmer. It's easy to pick up the phone and call a purveyor and have product delivered to you. But what's it like to actually go to a farmer and say, "Hey, what are you growing? What are you doing? What's in season?" There's a difference between ordering a tomato and knowing when to use a tomato. That's what we try and do in the program. You work with that. Colorado is all too often known for its ranchers--we do [produce] here year-round, and that's something we highlight as well. In Colorado, we go a little bigger; we kind of call "local" within the four walls of our state. Technically, the definition is within 100 miles--that's what people have been known to use it as. But we're a little more spread out here in the mountains, so we work with that. It's not beyond the farmer down in Paonia to make the four-hour drive up here [to Boulder]. So we learn to work with them, and we teach [the students] what the flavors are. And in all honestly, through the food you taste here tonight, we're the middle man. We take a delicate cooking process to it. We lightly season it. We don't add 17 seasonings. We don't do multiple cooking processes. We don't have seven different garnishes. Most of these plates will have three flavors; that's it. Highlight what came out of the ground. If you start there, it's hard to mess it up.

CET: What role do local beverages such as craft beer play into this philosophy that you're teaching the students?
Duyle: It's huge because you look at what people are referring to and what's become popular: the carbon footprint. So if you've got the 99 craft breweries that we've got in the state of Colorado here, why are you buying a beer made in Europe and having it shipped over here when you can go right our your back door, talk to your brewer and say, "Hey man, what do you have on tap? What are you making this week? What are you doing?" Perfect story for you: Two weeks ago down in Paonia-Hotchkiss, I was with one of my friends who's a brewer there, and we did a dinner down there. The day after, we went and met a farmer on his farm: Next year, we're growing hops. That's what happens.

CET: How are you teaching the students to taste beer and use that as a catalyst for creating their dishes?
Duyle: Focus on the classic three C's. Either cut it, contrast it or compare it on the palate, to learn what to do with it and where it goes. The big thing for them is I don't want them to learn how to cook a dish; I want them to learn how to present a menu and have it flow through. So what they need to learn is to have it work the whole way through. You don't want to start with a high alcohol [beer] and then go to a low alcohol. You don't want to start with something that's just going to annihilate your palate because you won't taste the rest of the menu. A lot of times in school, you get so focused on one plate, and that's not reality. Reality is you're creating a menu. You're creating an experience. If you can find someone who instead of coming into your restaurant to have dinner, they have an experience, they'll come back.

CET: Do you feel this concept for the Culinary School of the Rockies would work in other parts of the country?
Duyle: Definitely would. It would work anywhere because everywhere you go, you can grow your own food. You can brew your own beer or make your own wine. All it is is learning how to build a relationship instead of picking up a phone.

Culinary School of the Rockies students and chef participants at the 2009 Farm to Table Pavilion at the Great American Beer Festival (photo courtesy of the CSR blog)

GABF Farm to Table Menu (courtesy of CSR's blog):
  • Roasted cherry tomato and burrata bruschetta, paired with Steamworks Third Eye Pale Ale
  • Terrine of rabbit with pheasant and sour cherry, paired with Boulevard Two Jokers Double Wit
  • Chilled corn soup with pepper relish and chile oil, paired with Boulevard Long Strange Tripel
  • Cassoulet of rabbit, paired with Deschutes Hop Trip
  • Confit of pork with sage and Mmacerated peaches, paired with Deschutes The Dissident
  • Duo of bison: roasted rib-eye and braised shortrib with carmelized brussel sprouts, paired with Great Divide Fresh Hop and Yeti Stout
  • Confit of lamb with polenta and fig jam, paired with Clipper City Uber Pils and Oxford Organic Amber
  • Smoked and braised pork cheek with grits and guacamole, paired with Left Hand Sawtooth Ale and Porter
  • Corn cupcake with brown butter honey buttercream, paired with Steamworks Conductor
  • Spiced biscuit with peaches, paired with Steamworks Ale Diablo
  • Mascarpone cheesecake with peach reduction, paired with Steamworks Ale Diablo