Renovations underway at Chef Chris and Mikkel's new project - Backyard Farms
Hopefully in each artist and artisans life that striving artist awakens to the lucid moment of awareness when the light switch goes off, the heart and eyes open wide, to just what it is they are doing. The intuitive interest in the craft turns to passionate awareness. It's the one moment they can't turn backwards from. The artist connects with the spirit of their craft and medium. In the case of this artist's tale, it is about a chef's path, his job to nourish bodies and contribute to one of the single most important cornerstones of our everyday lives - food - it's economics and ethics, its cultural, family and community roots. The sensory delights of a well balanced and elegant meal are still paramount, but sit equally at the top with the other factors of "good, fair, local and clean". All those parts of a "food experience" are soundly built when planted on a solid foundation that honours all these aspects.
This kind of epiphany was had by Chef Chris Van Hooydonk. After around a decade of corporate chef life, he couldn't dance around his "moment" - the one he couldn't turn his back to any longer… so he left corporate life with some ideas, and a couple of leads… nothing certain. Just a big wide open heart and eyes. The rest of the hospitality community sighed, "What will he do?". His wife Mikkel could see and feel that a great family life such as they envisioned wasn't a possibility at the rate they were going either. Both felt ready to take a giant leap in to the unknown…
Van Hooydonk and his wife and business partner Mikkel Day own a house ideally situated on The Golden Mile in Oliver BC where their businesses Artisan Culinary Concepts and Backyard Farms are also located. They have been restoring their small orchard, preserving heritage fruit trees, (from which I ate a luscious 2 lb peach from last summer) and planting gardens around the couple of acres they have got. They make their Backyard Farms products… my favourite hot sauce, peach chutney, barbecue sauce, all kinds of preserves... It is magic. Chef Chris built an incredible commercial kitchen in the basement of their farmhouse, where he can produce all the foods fit for the valley's largest and finest culinary events.
While Chris is in the kitchen Mikkel is out in the garden, growing what is to become their Backyard Farm products (that is between, before and after her serving shifts at Burrowing Owl and helping manage her Aunts Osoyoos clothing store, California Day) They happily work their ***** off to make this dream real.
But last year another opportunity came. The original "settlers" of the neighbouring house set in amongst the orchard surrounds decided they were ready to sell. With a little help from their family, Chris and Mikkel were able to put their resources together to obtain the adjoining property and truly expand their vision to the full picture of an integrated culinary/life model they were seeking to create.
This new neighbouring house is currently transforming in to a "Place for a Food Experience". I don't want to call it a cooking school. I'd say it's that and more… Groups can come and participate in the cooking and food prep, while learning, enjoying the property, and helping in the garden. Van Hooydonk and Day's vision is to give people an opportunity for a real connection with their nourishment, learning where it comes from, how it gets on the plate, and perhaps gaining a true insight in to the importance of real, good, sustainable, local and seasonal food.
The renovation at Backyard Farms is complete in May and they are already taking bookings. We look forward to some very special TFG bookings there soon. We will have a follow-up story to post on how the renos are going in May!
They will eventually have a couple of rooms for overnight stays when they are ready to start their "B&D". No, not Bed and Breakfast, Bed and Dinner.
By Tarynn Liv Parker
PS… a few articles I enjoyed in the kitchen last week, and a couple shots from last summer (July 2013)
the good smoke
One of Chris' various bread starters
these lovely organic over-wintered carrots had to snuggle close
Mikkel, resident picker, safe from the bees, but not Chris…
Peaches, glorious peaches