Hey Chef, I think I’ve died and gone to our mutual idea of heaven.
Since the day I arrived I’ve wanted to sit down and write to you, I find myself struggling to come up with the words to express this place I find myself in.
It’s not just the mountain air or the incredibly blue lake I get to stare at from the restaurant all day, I’m building dishes and creating menus the way we used to talk about, the way it should be. Long gone are my days of dealing with chain suppliers. I am not exaggerating when I say I know where every single piece of produce comes from. I either picked it myself from our kitchen-garden and orchard here on the property or from our farm in Cromwell, both of which I have taken charge of. We are planting for the seasons, it sounds so logical but the results seem so vastly different. I’ve also connected with some amazing local farmers and now have a fisherman mate that literally brings me his catch each day. He even helps us in the kitchen twice a week. It feels like the family we had when you took me on as an apprentice.
No two days are the same. Yesterday I visited one of the local Venison farmers just a little further up the lake. He managed to get me on a horse, as we rode out to his herd he enlightened me on how the start of the winter season affects the types of grasses that sprout, how seasonal shifts mean the animals are digesting different minerals in the grasses, and how these things affect flavours in the meat. I‘ve never met anyone more passionate about grass, but there is obviously a method to his madness, what he produces is like nothing I have ever tasted. It’s as if the meat softens when we cook it. Oh and forgot we only cook over the coals. Fire is flavor they say and we burn a manuka wood here that has an incredible sweet smoke.
I know you’re a fish-man… you have to come here and try our trout. Our lodge guests can go out with a guide and catch it themselves. I’ve been out with them a few times, there is nothing more romantically primal than catching your own fish then smoking it over coals on the edge of the lake.
We have built a bit of a reputation locally for growing the best fruit and vegetables, I’ve given myself a little pat on the back for that one although I’m told it has nothing to do with me, we just have the most incredibly rich soil here.
The proverbial icing on the cake that I know you’d love is… I regularly prepare guest's meals outside, on the lake edge over a fire. It’s everything we used to talk about. It’s real tactile cooking, simple fresh produce, touched lightly and cooked over the fire, don’t tell the owner but I’d work here for free.
Your passion for food and the art of giving the diner an experience got lost at my last job but I just wanted to write and say thanks. You taught me what sharing with guests was truly about, this place has reminded me why I got into cooking. We didn’t talk much when we worked together but I want you to know you taught me something I will always be grateful for. Your respect for produce, your care for your team and your passion for lighting up the faces of your guests… You’re a special man Frank and I hope one day you can come and visit.
Always your sous-chef, in the kitchen and life.