For four local chefs, harvest time is as much about family and community as it is about food. We invite you into their kitchens where they share
stories and recipes.
By Christina Shepherd McGuire
Portraits by Ryan Dorgan
Recipe photography by Paulette Phlipot
Every August I feel like I just might turn into a tomato. This began when I finally started developing a taste for tomatoes in my early teens. For the entire month of August, my mother would buy beefsteak tomatoes from the “vegetable lady” and fresh buffalo mozzarella from the local Italian deli. Long before farmers markets, heirloom varieties, and fresh-off-the-vine golden snacking tomatoes were en vogue, my family would eat caprese salads (tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, and imported olive oil) every night for a month. It’s what was in season at the time; and my mother knew that, very soon, the cold New England winter would deem fresh produce a thing of the past. We savored every moment.
“I think of food as medicine,” says David Hugo, the village chef at Grand Targhee Resort. “You always want to put the best stuff in, which is usually local, fresh, and close to the source. The closer to the source you can get it, the better the flavor and the more nutritious.” Hugo stresses the importance of eating with the seasons—a theme I’m familiar with and one that persists throughout conversations with Hugo and three other local chefs, who all use fall farmers markets to acquire the raw materials from which their masterpieces take form.
Growing up on a farm in Vermont, David Hugo learned to cook with what was available in the garden. Harvest time consisted of eating corn and making cider. His extended family would gather at his parents’ orchard to pick apples and make gallons of cider—some to drink, some to ferment into hard cider, and some to freeze for use in winter. He explains that the way his family ate back then was very different from the way most of us eat today.
“Today, people look up a recipe, then go out and buy all the ingredients,” Hugo says, explaining that a more historical approach is to develop a recipe that highlights the crop du jour as the main ingredient.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Hugo traveled to France and Italy to cook and experience cultural eating. But upon returning home, he realized that he wanted to concentrate on American cuisine and regional cooking. “Haute cuisine was cool, but I had to bring a big toolbox to work to make elaborate meals,” he says. It got him thinking … What really is food? Why do people eat? And what kind of food do you want to put into your body? To the Vermont native the answer was easy: local and seasonal.
And no farm in the nation does “local” better than Shelburne Farms in Vermont, where Hugo spent twelve of his cheffing years. The 1,400-acre working farm, established in 1886 on the shores of Lake Champlain, now operates as a nonprofit, complete with four historical buildings, an inn, and an on-site restaurant. The operation shares its working farm and historical property with the community, which uses it as a campus for learning environmental, economical, and cultural sustainability practices.
Hugo came to the Tetons directly from this locavore hub, creating menus for Grand Targhee that feature regional food, such as 460Bread and produce from Clawson Greens (a hydroponic farm in Tetonia run by Dave Ridell and created out of a full-size shipping container). His downtime spent with his wife, Lauren, and son, Olin, consists of visiting the local farmers markets and tending to his family’s small garden, just like he did growing up.
As a private chef, Jarrett Schwartz cooks a little bit of everything—from raw fish to Asian-influenced fare to local cuisine. Most of his repeat clients give him free range to create dishes from foods like Colorado elk and bison, local Lockhart Cattle steaks, and the summer’s freshest farmers market finds. “I’m there [at the farmers market] early to get first pick,” he says. “If I see turnips and carrots that week, that’s what’s on the menu. If it’s green tomatoes, I incorporate them in salsas and vinaigrettes.”
A long-ago transplant to the town of Jackson, Schwartz has pioneered nine restaurants—including Mizu (now Sudachi) and Blue Kitchen (now The Kitchen)—most of which are running strong today. He serves as a consultant for several local restaurants, including Sidewinders, Persephone, and Picnic, where he develops seasonal menus, organizes kitchens, and trains staff. He explains that every year the farmers markets get better and better, and this influences his summer menus.
“When I do a menu change, I think of what’s in season,” Schwartz says. “Maybe it’s lightening up a fried chicken sandwich at Sidewinders with pickled veggies, or incorporating fresh peas and pea sprouts into summery salads at Persephone.” When asked how he takes part in our sustainable food community, he has this to say: “I contribute by buying local produce and spreading the word, as a one-man-show, to clients and restaurants.”
Schwartz always looks forward to fall, when the farmers markets are stocked. “It’s like our summer,” he says. “Fun things come out, like endive, radicchio, and broccolini.” He also looks forward to getting over his August hump and spending more time with family to cook his favorite fall recipe, Lela Soup, named after his three-year-old daughter. This traditional chicken soup incorporates joys of the harvest, like Lacinato kale, turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, and bone broth made from chickens raised in Alta. Schwartz is proud that Lela will eat whatever he cooks, and that she participates in the process by salting her food to taste and cracking eggs. “Rarely does she get an organic Amy’s frozen pizza,” he adds—especially at this time of year.
For Christian Hanley, being a restaurateur is a family affair. “There is zero separation for us,” he says. “Food is what we do all day long.” Hanley and his wife, Lisa, bought Forage in January of 2015 as a way for the family to relocate back to Driggs, where Christian spent his time ski bumming in the 1990s. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Hanley had cooked regionally in the Tetons before meeting Lisa and opening three restaurants in Arizona for a private family.
The couple’s two children, Maddie, age 8, and Ollie, age 6, don’t know life without food at its very core. The kids help out in the kitchen at home by making their own breakfast and preparing their lunches for school. They also take the bus to the restaurant after school to help with kitchen prep (after homework is done, of course). But for their parents, it’s less about having the kids participate in family chores and more about engraining in them an appreciation for everything “food.”
Throughout the year—and especially during harvest season—they take a family night to prepare and cook a dinner together at home. “The point is to make something from scratch that came from the earth, seasonally and locally,” explains Hanley. The family’s menu revolves around what’s available in a given week. “I’m a big fan of autumn,” he says. “When the ingredients begin to change, my style of cooking changes, too. That’s when I start to incorporate braising, and cooking with stronger flavors.”
Along with stronger flavors comes new taste sensations for the kids. Hanley believes they need to see a food three times before they’ll try it and enjoy it. The first time, he’ll introduce it on their plates; the second time, maybe they’ll push it around with their forks; and on the third time, they are expected to take a bite to at least try it. “We call it a ‘thank you’ bite,” Hanley says, “to give thanks because we made it together.
As a person who acknowledges that he is constantly “taking from the system,” sustainability weighs heavily on Hanley’s mind. He believes that maintaining the local food economy is something that will come into question as the population in the Tetons increases. Improving on efficiencies is something he tries to take part in.
“Linking us all together [farmers, ranchers, and restaurants] is an efficiency in itself,” he says. And conversations are beginning to happen. This summer, Hanley partnered with Snowdrift Farms in Victor to provide weekly farmers market specials made from the farm’s harvest. “This [planning] gives us a full outline for June, July, August, and September. That’s four months that we are in the circle!” But he still ponders a long-term solution, one where restaurants of a certain size will need to create their own food supply. And with two bright young stewards at their side, there’s no doubt the Hanleys will be leading the charge.
Joshua Governale grew up in Orange County, California, right next to a pumpkin and corn farm. During the fall harvest, the field mice would evacuate the farm’s property and relocate themselves in neighboring homes. As a “thank you”—or more specifically a condolence gift—the farm would leave a large bag of fresh produce at the Governales’ doorstep every autumn. Governale remembers his mother’s pumpkin bread, his grandfather’s pumpkin ravioli, and minestrone soup, for which the family utilized the “kitchen sink of veggies” that came available each fall. (As for the mice, well, they got the raw end of the deal, often meeting their demise during a run-in with neighborhood cats.)
Today, Governale blends his Sicilian roots with a slight Cajun flair, stemming from his Italian grandfather’s New Orleans upbringing, as he crafts dishes for his two Jackson restaurants, Café Genevieve and Orsetto. At Café Genevieve, he creates affordable home cooking with a Southern flair; at Orsetto, his moderately upscale Italian fare incorporates family recipes and the old-school flavors of his youth.
Similar to Hanley, Governale stresses the importance of efficiencies within the local food system. Conveniences—like the proximity of Vertical Harvest to his restaurant—help him participate in the culinary circle while cooking up to 1,000 covers a day at Café Genevieve. At Orsetto he uses Vertical Harvest’s tomatoes, micro greens, and micro basil in dishes like panzanella, preordering two weeks out so he knows exactly what he’ll be getting. Governale meets weekly with Nona Yehia and Sam Bartels of Vertical Harvest, giving them feedback on what they can do better to accommodate his restaurants.
When Governale grants himself a pause—which are few and far between—he continues to contribute to the food circle by tending the 17-by-17-foot raised garden bed at his Rafter J home. And while his novice gardening skills have nothing on his professional cooking prowess, he finds it important to take time to connect with his fiancé, Jennifer, and his daughter, Delilah, as together they learn what grows best in a climate more suited to making gelato than to growing a juicy beefsteak tomato.