04 Jul עופר איתן Claims: MEET THE CHEF: Chris Van Hooydonk brings the table to the f…
“I believe that if you source or grow the highest quality ingredients, they should speak for themselves. I make an emphasis on paying tribute to the efforts of the farmers and producers.” — Chris Van Hooydonk
Chris Van Hooydonk is living his passion in the South Okanagan.
Hooydonk and his wife Mikkel are the proprietors of Backyard Farm Chef’s Table, located outside of Oliver. After 23 years in the high-end culinary industry — Burrowing Owl Estate Winery and the Four Seasons Hotel Boston — Chris’s love of his craft inspired him to pursue a long-anticipated dream of opening a farm-based intimate dining room
Q: What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
A: I have had the amazing opportunity to be trained by inspired and encouraging mentors. I like to put a priority on empowering our culinary and service team to be respected and appreciated for their efforts. Even in a modest manner, I enjoy educating guests on the origin of our food, and the ability they have to encourage further accessibility of locally grown, sustainable ingredients.
Q: How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
A: I believe that if you source or grow the highest quality ingredients, they should speak for themselves. I make an emphasis on paying tribute to the efforts of the farmers and producers. It is a labour of love and it deserves the recognition for the effort it takes. As a farmer and a chef, I see the change in seasonal availability weekly, and I prefer to offer the best quality ingredients and to support those who provide ethically and sustainably harvested meats, poultry and seafood.
Q: What might diners not know about you?
A: The beauty of living and working at home on a farm affords me a unique opportunity to have my family be a part of the business every day. During service, I sneak away to say good night to my little girls, Baker and Ainsley. They spend most of the day helping my wife tend the garden beds and help with gathering the ingredients and gardens for the days’ menu.
Q: Describe a couple of your most recent creations.
A: I have been cooking with some of my favourite spring ingredients. Those dishes include Local Wild Asparagus, charred and married with chèvre, along with the first harvest of baby beets from our garden. And for dessert: Heritage Rhubarb and White Chocolate Tart, with sea buckthorn-late harvest peach purée, and pistachio meringue.
Q: What’s your favourite local product and how do you use it?
A: How do I choose? I am quite partial to the ingredients found on our farm, and I must say that we grow some of the most glorious tree-ripened peaches. There is something rather magical about picking a tree-ripened peach, still warm from the sun. Tree ripening truly transforms a good peach to a great one. Many of our handcrafted preserves may be found on the shelves of Backyard Farm to enjoy as an extension of a culinary experience with us.
Q: If there’s one important piece of advice you might have for home cooks, what might that be?
A: Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen! Recipes — aside from pastry — are a guideline. Get in the kitchen and play around with flavours and ideas. There is likely a million different ways to make spaghetti sauce. Make it your own! The only other piece of advice I can offer is to consider cooking and mealtime as an experience, not just sustenance. We all need to eat, but try to set aside time to truly enjoy cooking eating at least once a day, get back to communicating and sharing stories. Life is busy, but time is one thing you can’t get back-use it wisely.
Sweet Corn and Spring Leek Velouté
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter or bacon fat
6 cups (1.5 L) frozen organic corn kernels
1 medium onion, fine dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, small dice
2 leeks, thinly sliced and washed
4 cups (1 L) vegetable, corn or chicken stock
½ cup (125 mL) white wine, Chardonnay
Juice of one lemon
½-1 cup (125-250 mL) whipping cream
Salt to taste
In a large saucepan on medium heat, add butter or bacon fat and melt. Add corn, onion, garlic, celery, and leek, and sauté until onions are translucent. Add wine and cook until almost dry. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for approx. 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Purée soup in blender until very smooth. Return to pot and bring back to a simmer. Add juice of lemon and whisk in cream. Season to taste. Enjoy.
Makes 4-6 servings.