Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Meet the Chefs at FARM Bloomington

In December I reviewed several cocoa and chocolate dishes from FARM, a farm to table restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana. Today I want to introduce you to the four wonderful creators of those dishes through this first ever combo mini-interview. You'll note that the questions are very similar but keep reading because their answers are unique.

For those looking at Valentine's Day, the chocolate pave I reviewed back in December is on the menu as a dessert option. You can book for Valentine's Day at FARM here.
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Chocolate Priestess, Chef D, Sam Aulick
Chef D, tell us a little bit about yourself please. Where did you train to become a chef and what inspired you to create FARM here in Bloomington?

I'm 53 and have been cooking professionally since I was 17 when I started cooking as a summer job at The Walnut Room in Columbus Indiana. I went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales where I was a Teaching assistant and Fellowship instructor. From there I worked and ate through 15 European countries mainly focusing on France and Belgium. I've worked throughout America, the Caribbean and on international cruise ships. 

After running away from my internal Hoosier I came home again to my aging parents and our farm in Southern Indiana. I created FARMbloomington 9 years ago to celebrate my coming back home and wanting to share my worldwide experience with my fellow Hoosiers. 

All of the chocolate and non-chocolate dishes we had on Wednesday (December 14) evening were wonderful. How often do you use chocolate as an ingredient in your dishes?

We always try to have a kick ass multi-layer chocolate cake available. Nothing is better than a moist rich chocolate cake. I also love to create different flavored chocolate truffles that pair with our themed dinners. Scotch Truffles for Burns Supper in January, Curry Truffles for our vegetarian Indian dinner, Ginger for our Asian tasting menu. We practically can't take off the chocolate pave that we put on for the christmas holidays a few years ago and it is still on the menu. Chef Bob does an incredible flourless chocolate cake as well. In the savory kitchen we chocolate and cocoa in several dishes. I love it in our Mexican mole sauces as well as our Cocoa Ribs which you had. I've also done a cocoa and kumquat sauce for duck and have added cocoa to pasta dough. 

Finally the "most important" question for us: Do you like chocolate and if so, what type of chocolate is your favorite?

I love really deep dark chocolate styles. 80% is just about right for me. I love it aux naturale but do like orange peel, candied ginger, chili peppers or just about any kind of nut in it. Oh, and caramel.....
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Chocolate Priestess & Chef Adkins
Chef Adkins, tell us a little bit about yourself please. Where did you train to become a chef and how long have you worked at FARM?

I have been a chef for 10+ years now and working in kitchens and restaurants nearly 16 years.  I've no formal training but have worked for a variety of talented mentors, chefs and non culinary.  I have been with farm for nearly 7 years.  I am an anthropology graduate from IU class of 2002.  I practiced archaeology in belize and through the midwest.  I began a serious venture in the hospitality industry when I was 25 and haven't looked back.  

The Ribs Mole was wonderful. How often do you use chocolate as an ingredient in your dishes at FARM?

Chocolate is a tricky ingredient when used in savory dishes.  Because it is such a forward flavor and has the ability to dominate the palette.  We use chocolate in moles and BBQ sauces and the powder can be used to add a certain bitter depth to many darker sauces such as a bordelaise  

Finally the "most important" question for us: Do you like chocolate and if so, what type of chocolate is your favorite?

I do enjoy chocolate.  In smaller amounts usually.  And I prefer dark chocolate over milk and am a big fan of salted caramel and chocolate.  

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Chef D & Chef Julia
Chef Julia, tell us a little bit about yourself  please. Where did you train to become and pastry chef and how long have you worked at FARM?

I've got no formal training, only a love to learn and create beautiful things. FARM was without a pastry chef so I put myself up to the challenge of learning how to bake, with a LOT of help from Chef Daniel Orr and of course, trial and error. I've been at FARM 5 years this February, and have been baking there for about 2 1/2 years.

The Buche de Noel and Chocolate Pave' was wonderful. How often does FARM offer those desserts on the menu?

The Buche is a seasonal item in honor of Christmas time.  There has been some version of the chocolate pave on every dessert menu since i started baking! I'm obsessed.

Finally the "most important" question for us: Do you like chocolate and if so, what type of chocolate is your favorite?


Of course!! I love dark chocolate, paired with nuts, hard cheeses, and red wine : )

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Doug
Doug Spradley, tell us a little bit about yourself please. Where did you train to become a bartender and how long have you worked at FARM?

I've been with Farm about a year now.  I've worked at a few locations around town: Serendipity Martini Bar, Crazy Horse, Coaches Bar & Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn, and the now defunct Jake's Nightclub.  My first bar gig was actually at Suburban Lanes way back in 2006 literally the day after my 21st birthday.  Since getting into serious bartending I learn from anything I can to be better, be it other bartenders from the region I am friends with, or learning out of my cocktail books.

Would you tell us a bit more about your inspirations for the two chocolate drinks you served us on Wednesday, December 14, 2016?

The two chocolate drinks I made are some fun variations of some pretty basic drinks, but use chocolate as a modifying flavor in different ways.  

The Chili Chocolate Martini uses the basics of a White Russian as a base, and bumps it around using some modifying ingredients to work to a specific flavor-- chocolate from Patron XO Cafe Dark liqueur, chili spice from Ancho Reyes, vanilla bean from Absolut Vanilla vodka, and half & half for balance.  Chocolate and chili are a pairing that I enjoy, since the spice and the creaminess of chocolate balance each other out.  The cayenne pepper dust on the top of the drink helps bump up the heat, but the addition of the half & half balances that back a bit as well.  

The NAFTA, as I like to call it, is a variation on an Old Fashioned recipe.  I chose Pike's Creek whisky due to its heavy butterscotch notes on both the nose and palate, and knowing butterscotch works well with chocolate I could have a base in mind.  I've used chocolate and agave nectar as a pair in cocktails before, so I went with a gut feeling and started with the Old Fashioned style build for this drink.  I felt that it needed a bit of harmony, thus the use of the bacon/ chipotle spray to add a touch of savoriness.  

Finally the "most important" question for us: Do you like chocolate and if so, what type of chocolate is your favorite?

Yes, I do like chocolate.  As to what's the best kind?  Well, milk chocolate for snacking-- I think everybody had Hershey bars growing up.  These days, though, I still like to enjoy a Mr. Goodbar or Crunch here and there.  Chocolate is just fun-- like bubbly wine, I've met only a few people from around the world who don't like it, and they are few and far between.  

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It takes a team to make a restaurant work. FARM has a great team. Do you agree?

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