Westwood Village, California is home to movie premieres and UCLA Bruins. Plus one tiny Farmer’s Market. Just 23 stalls, it is reworking itself back up after losing its venue during a drawn out construction job here. Larry and I walk to the market on Wednesdays, and walk the second half-mile back home with such things as a whole watermelon (Larry, not me). Recently we “slowed down” to enjoy a tour by Executive Chef Joseph Gillard from the Napa Valley Grille, a Westwood hot spot.
As you know, the Farmers Market is fun for anyone so we weren’t surprised to be accompanied by other members of the restaurant’s team: Shannon, Tracy and Pastry Chef Manuel. Tracy provided shoppers’ bags, Good News and Bad News. They were giant bags, we kept buying. My haul included spinach, tomatoes and peaches. Larry had grapes, strawberries, raspberries and later, Chef Joe handed him half a watermelon.
Dear readers, the second half of such a tour is going back to the restaurant and continued education. First, a watermelon tasting. Plus some lovely Pinot. Then a small bites salad of Persian cucumbers, multi colored grape tomatoes (oops, were those cherry tomatoes?), some herbs from Chef Manuel’s haul. Another small bites plate of a perfect golden fig, slice of gazillion-dollar ham, crispy basil leaf and a sweet soft cheese which now I need to return to the restaurant and find out what THAT yummy stuff was.
Does your Farmer’s Market conduct chef tours? Find out, then take one. Here are my 10 reasons why:
- You get to know a chef and restaurant staff personally – don’t you feel like a Big Shot when you’re treated as a friend, not just a patron? Things like these Farmers Market Chef Tours are terrific ways to grow relationships.
- I enjoyed the hands-on lesson on ripeness – just look at those tomatillos. Chef Joseph gave us just the right touch for these babies, above, along with velvety soft golden figs, which we gobbled up in a small bite plate.
- New ideas for old favs – each time Chef spoke of something familiar or comfortable, I asked what he’d do with it (since I knew only what I would do). Glad I did, good ideas flowed.
- Someone walks you through what they would do with it things you DON’T usually buy – sometimes I just overlook produce that’s not familiar to me. Love basil? I saw the green, and Chef pointed out the purple!
- It gives these farmers a boost to their workday being “toured” by a chef’s group – they were all so proud to talk to Chef about his choices.
- It’s a more relaxed way to ponder what’s seasonal and good – usually, we blast through the place and just pick up what we “need” instead of considering what would be wonderful
- I learned some great descriptives for feels and aromas – the fig’s ripeness was as soft a baby’s bottom.
- Tours turn a shopping trip into a romantic date – of course, this is what any chef or marketer hopes for but IT WORKS. We enjoyed our Pinot back at the Napa Valley Grille, some incredible small bites and then decided to treat ourselves to dinner, too. Of course, we then had to walk home with armloads of fresh produce, including that half watermelon. We did OK.
- A tour gives you a feel for a chef’s passion for his or her menu – Chef Manual told me his vision for his choice of fruits in that evening’s desserts.
- We came home with too much produce, a GOOD THING because after two days of my Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon, we needed roughage. We had a pile of beautiful veggies and fruits. WHEW.