Written by: Chef Alan Zox, Ph.D
Matt’s Organic Gardens, located in Dennisport Massachusetts, represents a unique approach to gardening. Not only do the owners, Matt and Janet, introduce organic plants that are ready to grow in your own garden, but they offer vegetable selections that are immediately ready to prepare in your kitchen for breakfast, lunch or dinner the very evening you have chosen to prepare them.
Further, Matt’s family provides farm features that include organic fertilizers, soil amendments, bag and bulk compost, along with many varieties of vegetables. For example, Matt and Janet and their staff grow over 65 varieties of small and large tomatoes, along with garlic, eight varieties of kale, 12 different cold crops of lettuces, hot and sweet international peppers, and over a dozen varieties of eggplants.
Because these vegetables can be picked when you are ready to eat them, they taste better than your average tomatoes or eggplants found at your local supermarket. Moreover, staff will educate you to have an ongoing balanced eco system for growing your vegetables at your home garden. In fact the availability of crops you can eat on demand, and prepare when you wish for your loved ones makes your meals that much more delicious.
Learning from trained garden staff about these many organic vegetables educates the consumer to be better informed about the source of the food produce you can buy on a daily basis. And if you are interested in foods that are better for you such as organic foods, you will be better able to make what you consume and grow for others.
Given the many ways organic vegetables can be eaten, especially among organic tomatoes, here are three delicious recipes that will capture your imagination this season.
Recipe #1 Caprese Salad: with Beefsteak Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil
This combination of delights can be prepared in minutes. Merely cut and layer the tomatoes, moz and Basil. ingredients in raw form or pan fry with salt and pepper and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Recipe #2 Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho Soup
This is a thirst quenching summer soup from Spain. By adding watermelon to tomato juice with a touch of Sherry wine vinegar, you will create a wonderful new flavor. Combine 2 tbs of sweet summer watermelon with 2 lbs of locally harvested golden or red tomatoes, cored, chopped and pureed. Add 1 tbsp red wine vinegar with sea salt and ground pepper. Add one diced celery stalk and chill for 2 hours.Yum!
Recipe #3 Roasted Red, Plum Tomatoes
These delights are fun to make and and far less expensive to use for cooking when you make them yourself. Begin with 5 lbs. of plum tomatoes. Expect to be able to dry about 24 halves. Heat your oven no more than 180-200 degrees leaving oven slightly ajar with a wine cork for about 2-3 hours. Check them after one hour and every 30 minutes thereafter. Make a pie with them; Snacking is nice, too.
Q&A by Janice Randall Rohlf
Dave Roberts is co-owner and founder of Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod and South Hollow Spirits.
Q&A by Janice Randall Rohlf
J’aime Sparrow and her husband, Christian, own Sunbird Kitchen in Orleans, a neighborhood cafe open year-round, serving seasonally fresh food and craft beverages with creativity and good vibes.
1. Why did you choose to open a restaurant? We started our business with a food truck, which was a way for my husband and me to collaborate and pool our individual talents and interests, mine in food and service, and his in design and marketing. We both worked in our respective fields for over 10 years in San Francisco. Once we successfully tested our concept with the food truck, the cafe was a logical next step. I was familiar with the rewards and challenges of the business and excited to put all that I had learned into practice. And Christian was able to use the opportunity to flesh out the overall Sunbird brand experience in a more permanent space.
2. What advice would you give someone wanting to follow a similar path? The restaurant business is extremely challenging. In our case, success came with diligence, patience, incredible amounts of hard work and a like-minded, dedicated team/flock. Be ready to rarely have a day off, take a vacation, or make ‘lots of money.’ You really have to love what you are doing--customer service, food preparation, management/teaching, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. You have to be present in your business everyday in order to maintain consistency and vision. You also have to be prepared to wear any and all hats to get your business off the ground. Finally, you have to be very patient. Growing a strong and viable business takes time. For most, it does not happen overnight. Be patient.
3. In your business, what has been your proudest moment? I can’t honestly say that there is a single moment. What I am most proud of is the overall brand experience we continue to create for our flock--our guests, our staff, our community, our families and ourselves. Our business has always been a collaboration. First between Christian and myself, then, as time went on and layers were added, between us and our partners, Karen Densmore and Garrett Smythe, and finally a collaboration with our community--guests and staff. We always wanted ‘Sunbird’ to be about Sunbird, not an individual person. It is a singular experience that cannot be imitated, an experience that relies on the vision, dedication and creativity of more than just one person. That said, our ability to provide a great Sunbird experience relies heavily on our staff. We maintain very high expectations for execution and take a hands-on approach, leading by example every day. Whether you are taking an order, making a coffee, cooking/prepping food, or washing dishes, we make every effort to inspire and guide our staff so that they can effectively deliver a thoughtful and authentic guest experience with lots of layers. Our guests have come to expect to enjoy great food, an inspiring space and kind service from Sunbird. I’m so proud that our whole team believes in consistently providing that.
4. How has the CCCI helped you get your business off the ground (if they have), or how would you have benefited from a similar organization when you were starting out? I was not assisted directly by the CCCI. Getting a fledgling food business off the ground is a difficult task. The support this organization provides would certainly have been welcome had it been available to us 10 years ago, and we're so glad to see it assisting others just getting started.
5. What one thing/service in the food industry do you think the Cape is missing? When we moved home to the Cape nine years ago, after 10 years in San Francisco, we missed a lot that was readily available on the West Coast. The Bay Area is a mecca for the local food movement. Access to local food and growers, robust farmers markets, an interest in serving farm to table as ‘fast’ slow food was just beginning to emerge here on the Cape. Today it’s a whole different story. There are many fantastic local businesses that have embraced and helped bring this movement to the Cape. Local farmers and farmers markets, groceries, restaurants, cafes, food trucks, publications, etc. have all made the Cape an even better place than it already was. There is little I think we are missing these days. More importantly, though, I think we are getting better at bringing the best of who we are and what we all do here as a community, to market. It makes us very proud to be a part of it all, and is motivation to continue to do our part.
6. What keeps you busy outside work? I’m a pretty boring person. Sunbird is always a work in progress and most of my ‘free’ time is spent working to improve and grow our business. Christian and I try to sneak away for hike dates or city sprints whenever we can. Otherwise, I get outside early each morning for a bike ride or run, and I read at night.
7. Describe your perfect day of eating on Cape Cod? That’s a hard question. I am surrounded by food every day of the week for hours on end. It’s hard sometimes to separate work from pleasure. I truly love basic ingredients. The simpler, the better. I’m not one for ‘fancied up’ food. I think in general it should be fresh, delicious and as approachable as possible. We source tons of produce from Chatham Bars Inn farm in the summer. Fresh raw peas, garden greens, radishes, beets ... they need little embellishment and provide me, personally, with the greatest eating pleasure.
Q&A by Janice Randall Rohlf
MacGregor “Mac” Hay is the owner of the Wellfleet Harbor Seafood Company and Mac’s Seafood, which owns and operates fish markets in Eastham, Wellfleet and Provincetown. In addition to Mac's on the Pier, the company's signature seafood restaurant located at the municipal pier on Wellfleet Harbor, it also operates Mac's Shack and Mac's Fish House in Provincetown, as well as a catering business. In the last year, Mac’s Seafood purchased Chatham Fish & Lobster, adding a seafood restaurant, wholesale seafood company and two more retail seafood markets to its company.
Why did you choose this career?
I have always had a passion for food and loved the sound of a buzzing restaurant, plates clinking in the background. When I had the opportunity to open my own seafood market and restaurant, I felt confident because I grew up fishing with my grandfather. I knew how to filet fish, shuck clams and oysters, and the basics of seafood cooking. I had worked a number of summer restaurant jobs so I also had an idea of what it took to run a seasonal business. At least I thought I knew.
I don’t think it was a conscious choice to choose the restaurant business. I think it was more of a drive to do something that I truly enjoyed that didn’t feel like work.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow a similar path?
Don’t. Just kidding. This business requires that you be “all in.” There are very few breaks and little time off, as it is all-consuming. There is so much advice I feel like I could share that it’s hard to narrow it down. I think having a five-year plan or goal is important. I often ask myself how I want things to be in five years and then make decisions based on those goals every day. Someone once said to me, “If you aren’t directing the ship where you want to go, don’t complain when you land in a port you don’t like.”
Other advice: Surround yourself with talented and driven people. Reinvest most of the profits from the business for a number of years if you want the business to grow. Don’t look at money as the “goal” but rather a tool to run a successful business. Don’t be afraid to borrow money.
The key to the restaurant business, and probably most businesses, is hospitality. If you want to go into this line of work, know what hospitality means and extend hospitality to co-workers, customers and the vendors you work with.
In your business, what has been your proudest moment?
It took me about 10 years, but I remember a moment when everything I had been working so hard to attain came together. It was a moment when everywhere I looked everyone and everything was actually working exactly as I had hoped. It was as though the perfect moment had been achieved. It was short-lived, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment.
How has the CCCI helped you get your business off the ground, or how would you have benefitted from a similar organization when you were starting out?
I haven’t tapped into the resources of CCCI but am happy to now make a connection!
What one thing/service in the food industry do you think the Cape is missing?
I think the Cape isn’t recognized enough on a national level for the quality of its food Cape- wide.
What keeps you busy outside work?
I love spending time with my family, fishing, doing some gardening and playing music.
Describe your perfect day of eating on Cape Cod?
I have chickens, and I start my day with fresh eggs, either poached or fried on toast. If it’s my day off, I’ll head out on my boat and hopefully catch a few fish, either bluefish or striped bass. (And if I don’t catch anything, I’ll stop by one of our markets and pick up some fish!)
For lunch I’ll stop by the restaurant and have some sushi, oysters and clams, then get ready to cook dinner. I like using the grill for everything. I’ll do a number of different sauces and marinades for the fish, but I like to keep it simple for the most part and let the freshness and flavor of the fish shine through. I’ll grill potatoes, onions, peppers, corn and anything else in season. While things are on the grill, I’ll shuck some oysters and clams and serve them with lemon and cocktail sauce or a mignonette. I also like doing lobster on the grill with some tarragon butter. A nice meal with some potato salad, fresh grilled fish and veggies, a salad made from garden greens and finished off with a homemade strawberry pie is a fantastic end to a perfect day of eating on Cape Cod.
And if I don’t want to cook, I’ll head to one of the restaurants and order off the menu!
Q&A by Janice Randall Rohlf
Richard Peal is manager of Leroux Kitchen in Falmouth, one of six locations, all in New England. He recently celebrated his third year at this cook’s paradise on Main Street, filled with everything you might need or want to make magic happen in your kitchen and have fun doing it.
1. Why did you choose to manage a cookware store?
After working 20 years in the publishing industry, helping authors realize their creative dreams, I jumped at the chance to the help home cooks find creative success in their kitchens.
2. What advice would you give someone wanting to follow a similar path?
Take the time to think about what type of people will help you reach your goal. Then go out and find them. Also, trust your gut.
3. In your business, what has been your most proud moment?
Finding quality locally produced food, buying it and selling out before I thought we would.
4. What one thing/service in the food industry do you think the Cape is missing?
A culinary incubator is needed on the Cape. As a retail manager, I am always looking for locally made shelf-stable food products. On the Cape, it's difficult to find those little niche food makers. If there were a central location where they could get guidance in both business and production, it might encourage more people to venture into this area.
6. What keeps you busy outside work?
Cooking at home and sailing.
7. Describe your perfect day of eating on Cape Cod.
It would be a fall day, with a nice 15 to 18 mph southwest breeze. Start the day on Chappaquoit Beach in West Falmouth with a cup of coffee and an egg bagel with cream cheese from Cape Cod Bagel, followed by a morning session of sailing. At around 1 p.m., break for lunch at the Pickle Jar in Falmouth. Maybe some more sailing in the afternoon, and finish the day with dinner at Water Street Kitchen in Woods Hole.
Sometimes pursuing your passions in life takes a long time to put into action. Over twenty-five years ago I decided to take a leap of faith and expand my love of cooking by entering the Professional Culinary Certificate Program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (CSCA). My goal was to gain professional experience and pursue a career that merged my love of cooking and my marketing background. After finishing the year-long intensive program I worked in a restaurant where I did prep and created some new desserts for the menu. I also briefly worked on Restaurant PR where I worked to translate recipes written for professional chefs into instructions that a home cook could utilize. And although I wasn’t able to create a permanent new career path, my passion for the culinary arts never left and several years later I was able to assist in the recreational cooking classes at CSCA.
Using my experiences with CSCA as a model, I’ve developed an interactive teaching approach which I’ve put to use giving cooking lessons in community recreational programs. For the past 10 years I’ve taught cooking classes to adults and children in Westford, Chelmsford, Marlboro and now in Harwich. In addition, I’ve also been able to conduct private classes for friends in their own homes. My classes have ranged from menus that feature ethnic recipes to lessons on appetizers and baking.
Two years ago, my husband and I retired and moved to Harwich. Since I wanted to offering the public cooking classes, I approached the Harwich Council on Aging about using their kitchen and I’ve been conducting classes on a regular basis. I’ve found that attending a cooking class is something many people enjoy during retirement years when they have time to experiment without the pressure of getting dinner on the table after a long day at work. Because culinary education can be intimidating for folks with its own language and set of skills, I decided to call my business Kitchen Confidence. My goal is to give people of all ages the knowledge they need to successfully produce delicious meals in their own kitchen while also having fun.
Recent classes have included appetizers and menus designed for one or two people. Classes are limited to eight people and are interactive in nature where I assist students with hands-on instruction including demonstrations on knife skills and helpful tips on using unfamiliar ingredients. As written recipes are often imprecise, I make sure to test each recipe before using it in class to be sure the instructions and ingredient measurements are accurate and easy to follow. Best of all after the cooking is done we get to taste the results! Starting in May I will be offering some new classes at the Harwich COA kitchen. For more information, be on the look-out for listings in the bi-monthly the COA bulletin or check out my Facebook page.