There’s no doubt, the movement to shop and eat local has taken off in BC and around the world. Here in our province, there are a growing number of chefs and restaurants creating seasonally focused menus with locally sourced ingredients. One who’s particularly noted for his Farm-to-Table passion is Ned Bell, Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Yew Restaurant & Bar. You may recognize him as a regular on Food Network Canada‘s “Cook Like a Chef” and CTV’s “It’s Just Food”. Here we reach out to Ned to find out how and why he’s brought his personal passion for supporting BC farmers into the Four Seasons’ kitchen. Enjoy!
BLEN: It seems pretty unconventional for such a big chain hotel to adopt a Farm-to-Table approach. Logistically, how do you find your local suppliers and how do you decide what to feature on your seasonal menus?
NB:It’s been rare in the past 20 years for hotels to focus on local community, mainly because we see travelers from all over the world, many of whom want to sample foods from BC but many who simply want a taste of the classics they are used to- things like Mac and Cheese and Caesar Salad.
We treat Yew as an independent restaurant. I source ingredients at the Farmers Markets every week- at Trout Lake, Nat Bailey, Kits. To be able to supply Yew with what we need, it’s essential to have strong relationship with the farmers so they know how much we will need and I know if they’re able to grow what I’m planning for my menu. I’ve been the in this business for a long time so I do know what’s in season but I need to meet and connect with the people growing the products in order to make it work.
BLEN: Tell us what inspired you to pursue a career in food and cooking.
NB: My inspiration comes from the fact that I love food and I love people. I always have. And I’ve always been around food. I started washing dishes at the age of 14 and from that young age, I knew what I wanted to do. I went to Culinary School and then started an apprenticeship at Le Crocodile. There, I cooked with Michel Jacob and Rob Feenie, both of whom have been hugely influential on my career. Working with these guys was like getting a scholarship at Harvard.
BLEN: Can you share a chef’s tip or two on sourcing local products, for the average individual?
NB: My advice is to build relationships with your local suppliers like your Fish Monger, local Butcher and Baker. This is the best way to get acquainted with the awesome local products out there. I pretty much go to the Farmers Markets every week all year long. I take my three year old and make a day of it. In my mind, a happy healthy family not only eats together but also shops together. I want my son to know that food doesn’t just come from Safeway, it comes from the ground.
BLEN: Any favorite local products to tell us about?
NB: I love many local cheeses like Farm House, Moostruck and Salt Spring Island. Also, I’m really big on Ocean Wise. My favourite BC seafood is Spot Prawns. They have a heroic story, having made a strong comeback from the brinks of extinction. Another favourite is Organic Ocean, a farmer who sells fresh daily fish from the docks on Granville Island.
BLEN: And finally, would you share one of your personal at-home recipes with us?
NB: Sure, here is my family’s recipe for Fish ‘n’ Chips.