Finding the Best Local Ingredients and Bringing them Home – The Grove Park Inn and their Farm to Table Philosophy
The focus on locally raised produce, meats and cheeses is a grass roots effort throughout Asheville and the Appalachian region. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) certifies locally grown and produced products that meet a set of strict guidelines. ASAP certified products are what Chef Trantham generally buys. Whenever he needs a product, he will turn to the ASAP guide and find a farmer or supplier for whatever he needs and he knows it will be a quality product, locally produced.
When we asked Chef Trantham about the transformation in his own cooking since attending culinary school at Johnson and Wales 20 years ago, he said that back then the focus was on European and Asian influences driven by classical French training. Now, he said, “instead of finding the best Fois Gras from France, we look for local alternatives. We purchase truffles from East Tennessee or look for the best local greens that are in our own community”. Trantham says that the combination of Southern tradition with worldly influences and local products has given this region a truly recognizable style.
The challenge with trying to buy only local produce is the length of the growing season. Chef Trantham is working with local farmers to see how they can extend the the season for fresh produce (just as Jolley Farms has been able to grow certain types of produce in the low tunnels through the Winter).
Their Banquet Chef (Chef Lou, as she is known – a little ball of energy with a big smile!) is also working on canning and preserving the bounty of the season. They are looking forward to canning, pickling and preserving using many Southern Appalachian recipes (if it all doesn’t get eaten up before it makes it to the pickling process!).
Chef Trantham truly is a great advocate for local foods and sustainability issues. We really enjoyed meeting him and his staff. We also want to thank The Grove Park Inn for graciously allowing Mr. Bunkycooks and I to traipse around their kitchens (all of them!) and stick cameras in everyone’s face while they were cooking! We felt we were around friends.
Thank you also to the Pink Lady for not appearing in the middle of the night while we were there! Mr. Bunkycooks has assured me that it was his hand that I was holding.
I asked Chef Trantham for a signature recipe and of course, it was going to be a traditional Appalachian one. You cannot get any more traditionally Southern than a recipe for Collard Greens!
Now I know why they tasted so good (it’s the bacon grease!). I did prepare the recipe myself last evening and although it was very tempting to add all the really flavorful stuff (ham and bacon) to the greens, I
wimped out was thoughtful about our waistlines and added about a third of a pound of Applewood Smoked Bacon (cut into lardons) instead. I also cut back the amount of salt by half. They may not have been quite as good as Chef Trantham’s, but these were very tasty served with my Rosemary Pork Tenderloin with a Bourbon Glaze and Old Amsterdam Cheese Grits. By the way, I added just a pinch of sugar at the end to bring out a little bit of sweetness to offset the tanginess of the vinegar.
Stay tuned for a really fun trip to the Asheville City Farmers’ Market with the chefs and the restaurant manager from The Blue Ridge Dining Room!
* Photo at the top is courtesy of The Grove Park Inn.
Southern Appalachian Collard Greens
Courtesy of Chef Denny Trantham
Executive Chef of The Grove Park Inn
Cooking Time – The longer the better
8 ounces Diced White Onion
4 pounds Collard Greens – Washed, Trimmed & Cut
2 ounces Dried Ground Mustard
1 ounces Kosher Salt
1 ounces Ground Black Pepper
1 cup White Distilled Vinegar
1 each Smoked Ham Hock or Meaty Ham Bone (leftover)
8 ounces Bacon Grease
1 Gallon Water
Basically arrange all ingredients into vessel with water, braise for anywhere between 2-3 hours. Rehydrate as necessary. Braise, the longer, the better.
* I cooked mine about 4 hours.