Below, you will find the second part of Chef Jensen Lorenzen's reflections and blog report following his trip to Italy and the Terra Madra gathering last fall (Part One is located in Peter's Blog posted May 10th, located below). I think his ethic and commitment to authenticity and flavor is a wonderful example of what Pizza Quest --emphasis on "Quest" -- is all about. It also reflects what I see as a national awakening to the values of respecting the ingredients, and for appreciation and stewardship of the land. These are among the values that reflect our own mission here at Pizza Quest, as we say at the top of the page, "A journey of self discovery." Jenson's words are a wonderful example of self discovery as it happens. In a few weeks we'll be showing you some webisodes filmed at The Cass House Inn, where Jenson and his wife Grace have created a sweet and delicious getaway along California's Central Coast, where they manifest their ongoing self discovery every day for their guests. Check out their blog for more of these thoughtful postings, as well as beautiful photos: www.casshouse.typepad.com/
Before we read about Italy, though, a quick report on my recent visit to Boulder, where we filmed more footage with Chef Kelly Whitaker and his creative team as they prepared to stage a beer and food pairing at Pizzeria Basta. We not only got some great instructional footage regarding the elements that go into proper pairing of food and beer (or wine), but also filmed a round table discussion with brewmeister extraordinaire, Patrick Rue, of the famous The Bruery, in Southern California, whose beer was being paired with Kelly's food. Lots of interesting things happened that will show up on future PQ webisodes, so I won't say too much now but, when all the details are ironed out and we've had a chance to review and edit the footage we'll post the webisodes for you to enjoy. For now all I can say is that some great pizzas are going to come out of this gathering with Kelly and Patrick, and you will ultimately be the beneficiaries. More on this later....
Now, here's Part Two of Jensen Lorenzen's reflections, inspired by his trip to Italy:
...We too, can be conduits of our land. We should take pride in our local products. My Caviar is
finger lime from Cayucos, my Truffles are Chanterelles from the foothills of the Seven Sisters, my Maine Lobster is Spot Prawns from Santa Barbara. We have the opportunity as chefs and consumers to define and celebrate the delicacies of our region, so when these products are experienced we can be proud that they are unique to our area and help to define us as a culture.
When I reminisce as an older, fatter chef I want find comfort in the fact that I served what I was proud of, both directly by purchasing local products and indirectly by asking "Have you tried our--insert quality regional product--it’s the best in the world!"
Our area is the source for some of the best agricultural products in the world. If we want to maintain this we need to foster relationships with the most important people in our food system--growers, ranchers, and producers. We are beginning to lose sight of the historical and social importance of these relationships; allowing them to die would destroy what is left of our extremely frail and geographically sheltered Central Coast food culture. Take a few minutes to Google the history of our local dairy industry. Do you have any idea how many of our communities were built around the dairy business? Now try to find a gallon of milk produced locally. How can a product that was at one time so important to our local economy just disappear? Now ask yourself, where will this happen next? I don’t want to contribute to this end.
In talking to my customers, peers, and local suppliers I have found that the heart of this message is alive and well on the central coast. It seems, however, that the message is being lost somewhere between purchasing and consumption. You’d be hard pressed to find a local consumer who wouldn’t tout the benefits of eating and buying local, but to what extent? What are the personal costs and discomfort we are willing to shoulder in order to truly stand behind what we believe in? Are we willing to sacrifice certain ingredients, suppliers, supermarket convenience, fertilizers, etc? These conveniences (that’s really all they amount to) make our jobs and lives easier, but at what cost to our community? Are we looking past our local producers to save a few bucks? Do we make the effort to locate and support regional producers? You save a few dollars at a Big Box store, but at what cost to our connection with our land, at what cost to our agri-social consciousness? This is a question for chefs, winemakers, purveyors, and the general public. I cannot speak for the collective “us”, but I can speak for myself, my family, and our restaurant.
Over the last few weeks, I have eliminated a large amount of outsourced ingredients and replaced them with regional ingredients to a greater extent than I have in the past. It requires a more knowledgeable floor staff, as well as more flexibility from my kitchen staff: our nightly menu meetings last longer, many times stretching well past when the boys have clocked out (a commitment that I am humbled by). Preparations might change half way through the evening--thanks for putting up with me folks. More creative methods of recipe development and service are demanded from everyone. This creates a personal, more valuable end product and a means to allow our menu to display the wealth of our area. Our customers are curious about our sources and when they find out they have access to our products on a daily basis, it creates a certain sense of local privilege and pride in what they are enjoying. This might mean that our customers will not be able to enjoy halibut year round, or lobster, lamb or oysters, but they know that what we are offering for the evening is always the best that I can find from our local markets, farms, and waters.
To my customers, providers and fellow chefs: this is my charge and my commitment.
Thank you Italy.