Through his work with Certified Master Gardener / Horticulturist Geri Miller of Home Grown Edible Landscapes (HGEL), Chef Govind Armstrong of Venice, CA’s Willie Jane restaurant is redefining the relationship between chef and farmer in a way heretofore unseen in the urban environment. By working one-on-one with Miller sourcing seeds from catalogues created by some of America’s oldest refineries, discussing the daily growth patterns of a specific crop, and choosing the exact moment of readiness for an ingredient to move from earth to plate Armstrong has pioneered a new hyper-locavorism which heightens each dish on his menu.
The Cook’s Garden is currently supplying Willie Jane with a number of ingredients that take center stage on the Southern-inspired California menu. One salad combines a mix of red vein sorrel, watercress, and mustard frill greens with grilled watermelon tossed in benne seed dressing; torn herbs top a salad with locally made ricotta, garden cucumbers, tomatoes, and fried bread; and pickled garden peppers are simmered with greens for an Angeleno twist on a Southern classic. Currently, Armstrong utilizes eggs from the garden’s own coop where hens named Michelle Obama and Claudia Schiffer strut their stuff on Willie Jane’s brunch menu in dishes such as the shrimp grits with soft scrambled eggs, bacon, and Fresno chili.
To augment the garden’s efficacy, HGEL has also instituted a weekend class schedule to introduce enthusiasts to the process of edible landscaping. This fall, Armstrong will join the class schedule as an instructor to teach guests how to take the produce they have harvested and transform it into entrees, canned items, and even baby food.
Posted by Lauren Harrity 9/25/13