Even though fall is in full-swing, I couldn’t help but reminisce a bit about an amazing experience I had this summer! If you’re a foodie, you understand the unique and interesting relationship you have with food and everything that has to do with food. Nothing thrills a foodie more than engaging in a food experience that could be best described as an immersion experience. Recently, I had the good fortune to do just that by spending time at Golden Bear Farm in Wisconsin, a certified organic farm specializing in beef and pork.
As a foodie who is an advocate of healthy eating and natural, organic food, I was excited to attend the “4 Chefs, a Farmer and a Pig” event in late August, which provided the incomparable experience of eating dinner on the farm.
Hosted by David Swanson, Golden Bear Farm was specifically chosen by Swanson personally as “the stage” for this spectacular event. If you’re not familiar with David Swanson, he is one of the most influential chefs (and one of my favorites) in Milwaukee. The owner of Braise, a brand that boasts a restaurant and a culinary school (among other things), Swanson’s mission is to “reconnect people with their food through teaching and advancing community based food issues.”
In my mind, I feel this translates to, “happier and healthier food makes for happier and healthier people”. By happier food, I mean food industry professionals working with local farmers and produce growers who are creating food growing environments that are natural, organic and better for people and animals.
As a professional food stylist, I’m always around food but I experience it most often through the filter of my job. Attending this event gave me the opportunity to experience food in a way I don’t normally get to, which ultimately gave me a bigger appreciation and understanding of the food. And of course, this was all in the context of a night out, eating a delicious meal and just having fun. Fellow foodies, you know what I’m talking about!
So the 4 Chefs (and the pig) got to work and we were the delighted recipients of four separate courses created by the four different chefs. Dining on bratwurst, grilled pork loin and pork carnitas, I was intrigued by the use of different flavors and how each chef created their own signature dish, distinctly different in not only the cut of meat but the specific mix of flavors. Presented with flair and exquisite in taste, coupled with a refreshing brew from Milwaukee Brewing Company, a food frenzy ensued and my fellow diners and I basked in the sensual experience that only an all-encompassing food event can provide. We “oohed” and “ahhed” throughout dinner and around the table, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and taking in every sight, smell and taste of the meal.
Of course, no meal is complete without a good desert and we weren’t disappointed in the delivery of the “Pork Fat S’mores” that ended the evening. Consisting of pork fat graham crackers, lemon thyme marshmallows, bacon chocolate and cherry sauce, you could say this was a little wacky but in the world of food, wacky can be a delicious thing. In this case, it definitely was as the s’mores were absolutely outstanding!
Golden Bear Farm, the site of the event, is proud of its natural, sustainable farm practices, and it was obvious that the livestock was well cared for. It may seem kind of strange to observe the animal both off and on the table but I found that I had a true appreciation for the passion and dedication of the owners, farmers and animal caretakers. Having a deeper knowledge of the origin of the food gave me a different kind of attachment to it, and I realized that this deeper attachment to the food makes me better at my job. Artists are passionate about the subjects they paint so it makes sense that food stylists would be passionate about their subjects as well.
My experience with the “4 Chefs and a Pig” event at Golden Bear farm gave me a greater appreciation for the connection between farmer and chef and chef and diner, as well as the beautiful late summer evenings that Wisconsin has. I also loved being a part of the overall dedication and passion of the evening and knowing that each person had a part in creating a gorgeous, sumptuous meal. I consider it no small privilege to eat great food and as far as I’m concerned, I’ll stay dedicated and passionate about that!
Finally, as a food stylist, I’m going to be more conscious of the story of the food in the future and honor the people, places and things it takes to get the food to me so I can make it look beautiful. I think it makes for better food styling because it creates a certain kind of “love” around it. And we all know that love and food just make the world go ‘round.