Cooking local, eating well
When I think about the food that I want to slide onto the tables at Union, I always come back to the same place: the Rungis market in Paris. I worked there for a while, buying all kinds of birds and big côtes de veau, sweetbreads, mushrooms and vegetables for a company that sent it to restaurants in Dublin. Rungis is the biggest market in the world—it looks like a massive air base with hangars full of vegetables and meat. The best part about it was buying the birds and game, picking supplies from boxes packed with ducks with red ribbons and heads crowned with feathers; unskinned rabbits tucked in rows in boxes; fat, feathered capons; and milk-white Bresse chickens with blue feet and red heads—like the French flag. And right in the middle of all this chaos is an elegant glassed-in café stuffed with bruising French guys in bloodstained white jackets drinking rosy liqueurs and eating steak frites at six in the morning. It’s beautiful.
I will miss cooking those plump, yellow Des Landes chickens and well-marbled meats, but I’m excited about the great stuff I am finding here in Ontario. My family has a farm in Grey County not far from Eigensinn Farm, Michael Stadtländer’s place. I try to meet the local farmers whenever I get up there. One guy, David, is a game farmer who opened the 100-mile market in Meaford. His elk has an amazing, clean beef taste—or, as my grandmother puts it, “how beef used to taste.” He’s led me to other farmers: a red veal guy and a chicken lady who raises a ton of different breeds of ducks and chickens. My plan is to invite them all to my family’s farm before Union opens and cook a dinner with all their products and see where we can go from there. This should get me thinking more about the menu and where I am going to get my supplies.