16th Annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner Recap

photo 1Our annual Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner was held on September 13, 2014 at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines. It was a spectacular celebration.  Every year it seems to take on a personality of its own.  This truly was the year of the Niman Ranch Hog Farmer.  Enthusiasm for the dinner led to a record breaking number of RSVPs. After all these years, it amazes me to see how much this event has developed, not just in size, but in helping people understand how important it is to recognize our farmers for their good stewardship of the land and humane treatment of their livestock.

The outpouring of support from the food community was enormous, starting the moment we asked our selected featured chefs if they would be willing to come to Iowa and cook for our farmers. They agreed without hesitation, and many of them even paid for their sous chefs to come along.  Chef Jason Cline of St. Petersburg, FL, went even further and held a fund-raiser for the Next Generation Scholarship at his restaurant, The Birchwood.

Featured Chefs :

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Featured Chef: Lucas Sautter

Chef Lucas Sautter – Alderbrook Resort and Spa -  Union, Washington

Lucas Sautter“I love to use Niman Ranch products because of taste and consistency, not to mention the way the animals are raised and cared for, I think it speaks volumes for the families and farmers. It for me is the best product in America.”

Chef Lucas Sautter brings over 12 years of culinary experience to Alderbrook Resort and Spa. He is a graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. Lucas has been a loyal employee of Alderbrook since 2005, working his way up from Lead Line Cook to Banquet Chef. Before then, he worked at the Classical French, AAA Five Diamond Award and Mobil Travel Guide Four Star Restaurant, The Tack Room in Tucson, AZ. He was also the executive chef of Basilico Restaurante Italiano in Olympia, WA. Lucas is a member of the American Culinary Federation, Washington State Chef’s Association and is on the Culinary Arts Advisory Board at Olympic College. He resides in Shelton with his wife, Crystal and their six year old daughter.

We’re honored to have chefs with his expertise joining us in Iowa!


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Featured Chef: Kelly Whitaker

Chef Kelly Whitaker – Basta – Boulder, Colorado

Kelly“Niman Ranch has always been our go to for sustainable antibiotic free pork.  We feel creating dishes with integrity is our responsibility as chefs.”

After completing a degree in Restaurant/Hotel Management at Colorado State University and at Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland, Kelly Whitaker cultivated his skills in the back alley trattorias and little-known cities north of Naples, Italy.  Returning to the States, Kelly perfected his craft in Los Angeles and Hollywood cooking in Michelin star restaurants, where he began developing his wood fire skills.  He opened his first wood-fire concept restaurant called Basta, located in Boulder, Colorado, after returning in 2008.

Kelly believes strongly in sourcing his ingredients as locally as possible, with his style of cooking being inspired by Southern Italian comfort farm food. He is currently expanding his talents with his newest concept, Cart-Driver, located in Denver Colorado.  This fast/casual autogrill-style eatery replaces the normal “to-go” repertoire with responsibly sourced and well prepared food. Kelly’s hospitality group, IE Hospitality, hopes to create approachable concepts centered on responsible, quality ingredients while maintaining the highest level of customer service.

We can’t wait to taste what Kelly cooks up in Iowa!


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Featured Chef: Keenan Bosworth

Chef Keenan Bosworth – Pig & Pickle – Scottsdale, Arizona

Keenan“I use Niman Ranch for Consistency and Flavor, as well as how they raise their livestock.  Happy pigs make a happy restaurant!”

Chef Keenan Bosworth started cooking in the early nineties at a young age in Madison WI. His first inspirations of food and cooking come from his parents, who always maintained huge gardens, cooked every night, and took weekly trips to the legendary Dane County Farmers Market on the capital square.  He ended up working at the Edgewater Hotel, then later at L’Etoile with Odessa Piper, who re-inspired those childhood memories of fresh food, local ingredients and approachable menus driven by the integrity of the products sourced.

After a few stints in Milwaukee, he moved to Scottsdale, AZ and founded the Phoenix Slow Food chapter. This immediately introduced him to the limited but wonderful small farms and producers that Arizona has to offer. After working with Payton Curry at Digestif, and then at Atlas Bistro for several years, he opened up Pig & Pickle in December of 2012 with his business partner, drink-man and longtime friend, Clayton MacGregor.  They stay open late to provide others in the service industry a place to get good food and drinks after their long shifts. Their goal is to bring high quality ingredients with fair neighborhood prices to a relaxed, fun atmosphere, which they have most certainly achieved.

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Featured Chef: Jason Cline

Chef Jason Cline – The Birchwood – St. Petersburg, Florida

Jason Cline

“I prefer Niman Ranch because of their ethical practices and exceptional products.  What I really like is that they help the smaller family farms, giving an overall sense of doing the right thing.”

Jason Cline knew his calling was in hospitality since he was fourteen years old, which is when he began washing dishes at a local restaurant.  After graduating from Johnson & Wales University, Jason has since honed his craft with some of the country’s finest chefs and restaurants in Orlando, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco before returning home to St Petersburg, Florida. He is now the executive chef at the historic Birchwood Hotel, bringing globally inspired, farm-to-table cuisine to all who enter.

Chef Jason partnered with Chef Tyson Grant of the Parkshore Grill this summer to raise money for the Next Generation Scholarship Fund. We’re fortunate to have the support of chefs who believe in the future of farming!


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Featured Chef: Chris Beischer

Chris Beischer – The Mercer Kitchen- New York City, New York

Chris Beischer“As a country boy from Pennsylvania, I grew up loving animals, knowing the importance of how they should be raised. Niman Ranch has the best tasting meat because of how their animals are treated, respected and care for. It is my brand of choice.”

Chris Beischer was born and raised in Pennsylvania and started cooking at age of seventeen. He decided to formally train as a Chef at the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu School in Paris and graduated at the top of his class. Chris’ first job in New York was at the famed Quilted Giraffe. After a memorable dinner at Lafayette Restaurant with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Chris discovered a cuisine that spoke to his senses and decided then that he would next work for Jean-Georges at his first restaurant, JoJo.

Chris moved up to Chef de Cuisine in 1997, earning him high praises. In 2000, Chris moved downtown, taking the helm at (The Mercer) Kitchen, with its pleasing and cutting-edge cuisine that works so well with the sleek multi-textures décor of leather, brick, glass and stone. Over the years, Jean-Georges has closely relied on Chris’ artistry and skills to train chefs from other restaurants to the Jean-Georges’ culture of taste and excellence.  Chris has been part of the opening teams many of Jean-Georges’ ventures, cooked at the James Beard House, and sits on the advisory board of two culinary schools.

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Featured Chef: Alex Roberts

Alexander Roberts – Restaurant Alma – Minneapolis, Minnesota
 

Alex Roberts Photo“Our restaurants are dedicated to great sourcing and we know that we can always count on Niman Ranch Pork for exceptional products…. Not only for wonderful flavor and texture, but for the value that comes with Niman’s high standards of animal welfare and land stewardship.”

Alex Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York but raised in the Twin Cities from a young age. He found his way back to New York when attending the French Culinary Institute and went on to gain experience working in several renowned restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, Bouley and Union Square Café.

An intensive period of food- and wine-related travel in Northern Italy followed his stay in New York before returning to the Twin Cities in 1999. He soon opened Restaurant Alma, a casual-fine dining restaurant dedicated to a changing menu of seasonal cooking, featuring organic and locally produced foods. In 2007 he opened a second restaurant concept in Minneapolis, Brasa Rotisserie, with a St. Paul location following in 2009.

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16th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner

Niman Ranch has celebrated its U.S. family hog farmers at the Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner every fall since 1998. In its sixteenth year this September, we’re continuing to celebrate the connection between our more than 650 family farmers and the chefs who honor them at this event.

We will feature six renowned chefs from across the country who share our passion for humanely and sustainably raised pork in their own cities and restaurants. Each chef will bring their expertise to the table with a “whole hog” and locally-sourced approach to create unique dishes that showcase our farmers’ hard work.

“Each of these chefs has shown a commitment to using humanely and sustainably raised pork in their restaurants,” said Paul Willis, Niman Ranch Pork Company founder and manager. “Our farmers take pride in raising hogs traditionally but often do not get to see how chefs use the pork on their menus, so we bring the restaurants to them.”

Over the next month we will introduce you to each of the following chefs:

 

Alexander Roberts – Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis, MN

Chris Beischer – The Mercer Kitchen, New York City, NY

Jason Cline – The Birchwood, St. Petersburg, FL

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Spring Farrowing

It’s that time of year again.  Spring signifies new life, which is easily observed here on the farm.  Recently, I visited fellow Niman Ranch Farmers Paul and Andrea Brown, who farm with their children right here in Iowa.  They raise pigs for Niman Ranch – just part of their entire operation.   They rotate the pig’s pasture from year to year, incorporating livestock with their crop production to enrich the soil.Brown Farm

I often get asked what we use to take the place of farrowing crates.  I like to say we take our lead from nature.  Animals are already given the tools to reproduce and care for their own.  Farrowing in the pasture begins in the spring.  I know my dad’s goal was to have everything set up for the sows in the field by April 1.  Historically, hog farmers utilized A- frame houses as shelters for pigs raised on pasture.

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Winter Farm Tour

IMG_9235It was a cold dreary day in February when our good friends from La Quercia, Herb and Kathy Eckhouse, called me to see if they could bring three people from the Boston Area including; Chris Himmel, Chef Nick Deutmeyer, and Chef Eric Brennan, from Grill 23, Post 390 and Harvest Cambridge, on a Niman Ranch farm tour. Their guests were interested to learn more about where their pork comes from, how the pigs were raised and why that matters in the creation of La Quercia’s artisanal meats.

 
We took our guests to visit long time Niman Ranch farmers Marlin and Judy Mowry. They came outside to greet us wearing warm winter coveralls while their farm dogs playfully pranced around with excitement. They said most of their pets were rescued from various bad situations, and were now finding solace here in a loving and safe environment. You could see the pride they take in the care of all their animals. The Mowrys were thrilled to host the tour and explained to us that they chose to work with Niman Ranch because they felt the animal handling protocols fell in line with their own core personal values about treating all life with respect.

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