Chef-to-Farm connects culinary students with local farms

It’s a warm summer morning as the culinary students pile out of the Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech) van, ready for their next farm tour. So far the students have visited Redfeather, Local Roots, Oxbow, and K-T Cattle Company farms. Before the summer is over they will add Cherry Valley Dairy and Camp Korey to the list.

This is part of a ‘Chef-to-Farm’ program, which connects culinary students and chefs to local farms in the Snoqualmie River Valley. The tours make up the bulk of LWTech’s new class called ‘Trends in Food Industry’, but throughout the week the students are also reading about important food issues, and discuss topics like labeling, animal welfare, farm-to-table, food deserts, sustainability, and nutrition. Most importantly, students are learning how to support local food and be part of the local food revolution from the very beginning of their careers.

While on the tour, the students had the opportunity to see the only two farms in King County that are certified Animal Welfare Approved. Both Redfeather Farm (heritage pork) and K-T Cattle Company (miniature beef cows) hold the highest welfare standard a farm can get. The students are learning how they, as chefs, can help educate consumers about animal welfare as well. “(Chefs) presenting these products and describing them well on our menus and educating our waitstaff to in turn educate the diner, add another education ‘channel’ for consumers to be exposed to these better, more humanely-raised products,” said LWTech student Jason.

The students have also learned that eating locally produced whole foods, whether vegetables, fruit, meat or dairy products, rather than processed foods can improve health. In addition to making good food, chefs play an important role as educators. “As a chef I will encourage people to support local farms. I think it’s tremendously important to know where their food comes from. We, literally, are what we eat. With an increasing rate of diseases and unexplained illness in our country people must wake up and take charge!” exclaimed student Denise.

In addition to supporting farms that are sustainable and humane, the students are learning that local, seasonal food tastes better, and taste, for a chef, is very important. “(It must) be an innate ability on the chef’s part to take the ingredients that are offered from an area and to create something different. The limitation of options available is also what creates a region’s specific taste. Just like the Mediterranean or Italian tastes. What is available and what chefs can do with it is what makes the creation of a regionally-known flavor so wonderful,” explained student Kristen.

This class will be offered every summer and is a great way for culinary students to learn about important food issues starting at the very beginning of their career. This is class is producing the next generation of chefs, chefs that care about where their food comes from and how it is grown.

Want to learn more about our work in the Snoqualmie Valley? Sign up for our quarterly e-news.