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Cooking with Seasonal Ingredients

We caught up with Perry Hoffman early one morning while he cut fresh herbs from a lush summer garden on the grounds of Domaine Chandon. He gave us the gardener's tour and shared his expertise on using seasonal ingredients in everyday cooking.

Perry Hoffman - Chef, etoile Restaurant

We caught up with Perry Hoffman early one morning while he cut fresh herbs from a lush summer garden on the grounds of Domaine Chandon. He gave us the gardener's tour and shared his expertise on using seasonal ingredients in everyday cooking.

"Here at etoile, we're all about cooking with seasonal ingredients, and we grow all of our herbs and many of our vegetables in this garden. In the past, we used it mostly as an accent, but this year we changed to a full-production garden. We plant varieties that replenish themselves, so we can get a decent amount of produce to sustain us for a certain period of time. We also have a greenhouse where we grow micro-greens.

"The greens I'm cutting here are a base for Chinese mustard called mizuna, which we blend into raw sauces."

A 4-star chef in the vegetable patch.

"I always like to say that Mother Nature tells you what to cook, and for us it's essential to know the ingredients that we use. That's why we don't have a full-time gardener. All of the chefs and sous-chefs here at etoile spend 20 to 30 minutes of each day tending the garden. We're the ones who plant it and harvest everything, and we really like to get our hands dirty.

"See these tiny carrots here? They're only about ¾ of an inch long, and we'll use them in the sashimi that we have on today's lunch menu.

"This summer, we have probably over 30 kinds of vegetables, plus a dozen herbs. Over there are 100 tomato plants. 30 to 40 percent of the vegetables we'll serve today will be picked right here this morning."

Seasonal produce at the supermarket.

"Of course, not everyone has space for a garden like this, or the time to look after it. If you want to find the best fruits and vegetables to cook with, just find the person who manages the produce section of your local supermarket. These folks really get excited about the products they carry, and they'll be glad to help. Ask what's good right now and what they received from their growers today. Farmer's markets are another great source because you can talk to the folks who bring the products to you right from the land."

When you can’t get it locally...

"We always prefer to use local purveyors, but that doesn't mean you should ignore produce that comes from far away. Sometimes we'll get our raspberries from Chile, because they're simply the best available. Even if they're not from a local supplier, they're still in season where they were grown. In the end, it's the quality and taste that counts."