This past weekend, my husband I met my parents at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, a sprawling property at the foot of the Smoky Mountains, where Farm to Table cooking, wine, whiskey and a rare breed of Italian truffle hunting dogs abound. The farm produces their own cheese, meats, beer, jams and vinegars, all while providing a luxury hotel experience. For each of us finicky New York Jews there were at least five young Southern men ready, willing, and able to accomodate at all times.
In 2013, The Barn’s Chef Joseph Lenn was awarded the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast, putting Blackberry Farm on the culinary map. But, when I showed up for my Salad For President guest blogging session, I was met by Jeff Ross… Dissapointed? Not at all. Jeff teaches most of the cooking demonstrations offered on-site, but he has a dirty little secret. Jeff is not a professional chef at all, he is the Master Gardener in charge of the growing the massive amounts of vegetables serving the two restaurants on the property. Jeff was raised in Knoxville, TN and he has been working the land at Blackberry Farm alongside his mentor, Farmer John (seen above), for 8 years.
So, Jeff has a particular perspective in the kitchen — he cooks seasonally and with a mind towards the land. The Blackberry Farm persimmon vinegar he used in this salad is made from the fruit byproduct of Blackberry Farm jams, and the waste from the vinegar is subsequently sent to feed the pigs. Points for showing us that being resourceful can be most delicious. Jeff is a, “wannabe chef, who doesn’t wanna be a chef.” I can relate to that.
Oh, and check out those gigantic tweezers! I have to get me some of those.