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When farmers and chefs meet and eat together.

The gap between farms and restaurants used to be far and wide. But when the farm-to-table social movement caught on, chefs became more conscious about getting fresh, varied food ingredients.

Recently, whatever wall dividing farms and restaurants was knocked down when 40 chefs and farmers got together to celebrate and engage in a healthy conversation.

The event was organized by chef/restaurateur Margarita Fores and Earthbeat Farm's Enzo Pinga, who both invited colleagues to lunch at Comm's Farm in Silang, Cavite.

Wildflour chef Allen Buhay also persuaded his colleagues to join.

At the gathering, Pinga said: 'We have a lot of specialty produce we like to offer the market, and indigenous produce we like to preserve. Meeting the more innovative and progressive chefs in the industry was important, so we can show them our products and also work with them on how we can best utilize our indigenous varieties.'

Assisted by Fores' catering company, Cibo di M, the farm set up cooking stations, long dining tables and a buffet of fresh harvest.

After casual introductions, the chefs immediately went to work, challenged by the wide range of vegetables, root crops, fruits and herbs brought by Malipayon Farm, Teraoka Family Farm, Good Food Community, Bangkong Kahoy Valley, El Dorado Farm and Earthbeat Farm.

New stuff

Familiar produce included romaine lettuce, native squash, green papaya, mushrooms and sweet potato, as well as some that chefs didn't know were growing in backyards like red morado bananas, gooseberries, purple hyacinth bean and lake weed.

Erwan Heussaff (Pink Panda, Crisp on 28th), who brought a portable roasting pit, made a fire using mango wood, while Buhay trimmed the meats.

JP Anglo (Sarsa) switched on the burner and rendered the oil from fatty strips of steak.

Holding a bowl, Queenie Villar (Hey Handsome) grabbed greens for a salad she collaborated in making with Nicco Santos (also of Hey Handsome), while Josh Boutwood (Bistro Group) brought out his cured lamb leg and carved thin slices for tasting.

Celine de los Angeles (Stockton Place) picked gooseberries, while Karla Mendoza (formerly of Pizzeria Mozza) grilled them; Jam Melchor (Healthy Eats) plated a fern salad; Bruce Ricketts (Mecha Uma) and David Ong (Curator) toyed with black and brown rice.

Miko Aspiras (Le Petit Souffle, Freezer Burn, Scout's Honor) made rosella jam; Fores, with Jorge Mendez (Alta in Ascott BGC), cooked two big potfuls of sauces for pastas.

It felt great to witness a spontaneous sense of camaraderie among chefs.

In roughly two hours, the collaborations yielded an amazing lunch spread: a duo of bruschette, one topped with chicken liver pate with prosciutto and the other with pepperonata and white bean puree; banh mi; a salad with cured lamb and crab fat yogurt dressing; adlai truffle salad; chicken galantina; crunchy rice salad with lime dressing; adlai steak rice; Andouille sausage pasta and calamarata with crab fat cream sauce; roasted steak with a range of salsas; roasted sweet potatoes and charred leeks; and bibingka with morado banana compote, pili nuts and rosella syrup.

Pinga brought out fresh coconuts for refreshments.

The lunch was both inspired and inspiring. But the conversation at the table was truly appetizing.

'When farmers see and taste what chefs do with our produce, it inspires us to grow more kinds,' said Gejo Jimenez of Malipayon Farm.

Huessaff added: 'The best thing about it was seeing the farmers' reaction to the chefs and cooks working on the produce, and asking them questions and seeing the potential of an ingredient seeing the cooks curious about how the vegetables and herbs are grown, why the flavors differ, and what the farmers had in mind when they were planting them.'

More seeds of farmer-chef collaborations have been planted and everyone is earnestly waiting for even bigger, fruitful harvests.

The farm lunch and tour was sponsored by Casa Artusi Philippines, with support from Cibo di M Signature Caterer

and Malipayon Farm.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Dec 15, 2016
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