Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with Katy Viswat, Seasonal Sous Chef at Quillisascut Farm

I've always knowlingly romanticized the life of the small sustainable farmer. Then I think about getting up at the crack of dawn, or butchering a chicken and I remember that I'd rather be a customer of the small sustainable farmer. Because of my cityfied wimpyness, I decided to interview one who has walked the walk at the remarkable and sustainable Quillisascut Farm. Katy Viswat cooks and teaches at the Farm School during summer. It's had a profound impact on her life and culinary profession. Katy is a chef that has worked at restaurants and catering companies such as Baci catering and Tom Douglas catering. We are thrilled she is working at Smokin' Pete's BBQ, bringing her expertise to both the restaurant and our catering department. She and I also share a birthday so we usually answer each other's questions before they are asked. For the general public reading this, however, I'll write out the questions (grin).

Hi Katy, thanks for joining me to talk about Quillisascut Farm. Tell us a little about the farm.

Hi Julie. Thanks for having me in your blog studio today. (Ha!) The farm is owned by Rick and Lora Lea Misterly and they have homesteaded there since 1982 when they bought it as raw piece of land. Today they have a herd of 40 milking goats and six billies. The farm makes cheese through out the year and sells it to local destinations.

What all do they do there?

We raise and grow pretty much everything we eat. We also have chickens, turkeys, ducks, cats, dogs... Lots of chores and a lot of petting goes on around the farm. Summer time offers multiple work shops. All dealing with sustainability to some degree.

What is the physical layout like? Where is Rice, WA?

Quillisascut is tucked away in Northeastern Washington. Very close to the Canadian border. The farm is named after a creek called Quillisascut. Old beautiful ponderosa pines highlight the landscape. And the Huckleberry mountains tie in the incredible views.

How did you first get involved?

I was working for Baci catering at the time with Karen Jurgenson ( farm school chef/instructor) and she pretty much changed my culinary path. So after the first year she asked me if I wanted to be sous chef for a summer and well, the rest is history. Very addicting.

How did your perception/experience of the farm change when you went from student to teacher?

My perception has always been as a teacher. But with that being said it changed my perception on food and where it comes from three fold.

What is the farm's overall goal or mission?

The farm's mission is to open up all your senses when visiting. We all think we know what a carrot tastes like, well that is soooo not true. Carrots right from the ground are sweet, and snap when you bite. To me that is connecting...Also the importance of buying local.. Less traveled tastes better, and you're helping your local farmer.

I had that experience just the other day with a carrot. The moment I bit into it, I immediately remembered my grandmother's garden. Then I thought, 'Oh yea, this is what carrots taste like. I haven't tasted one in years!' Exactly.

So what is a typical day like? Is there an actual rooster waking you up?

Yes! Every morning 4:30 on the button Mr. Bardly the rooster is letting his voice be heard. Then Mr. Bud from the upper garden is echoing Bardly's call. This is how I start my mornings. Could it get any better? Plus my room is in the barn. So great. Time to make coffee, and get the students going. Day one of a retreat is generally butcher day. On the first morning we are killing a goat. I join Rick with the kill. Very clean,quick and calm. The whole process takes about two hours. While the students work with Rick on the goat, I take off to feed the birds. My favorite time of the day.. .The rest of the day is preparing for lunch and dinner.

What is something most people don't know about the farm?

I think one thing people do not realize is how much work there is to do. The students get a taste of this from day one. Going to bed at nine is amazing, you really feel like a lot has been accomplished. I hope this gives you a little bit of insight to what the farm is about. You can see the cheese cellar and other farm pictures I've sent. Please feel free to ask more questions.
 Thank you, Katy! And for anyone that does have questions for her, please post them in the comments. I'll make sure she gets them and posts a response back.

For those of you who want to see if you have the right stuff to be a farmer, you can take one of the farm's many classes and workshops, like Intro to Farming, and The Sustainable Kitchen. I can tell you from experience that the cheese is to die for. It's amazing, but when I ate it the fact that I knew someone that helped make the cheese brought another level to my senses. It actually heightened my taste buds. I think this is why people get so excited about the slow food movement, farmer's markets, and personally knowing those that grow our food.

And finally, Katy will be opening a booth in one of Seattle's farmer's markets, called The Farmer's Kitchen, featuring her delicious homemade soups and comfort food. I'll post an announcement when she officially starts.

What's that? Where is my Weekend Warrior Recipe that I'm supposed to post on Thursday? Here is my recipe: EAT YOUR GREENS! If we're going to eat all this barbecue, we need to eat our leafy greens people. It's about balance. This week I ate out-of-the-ordinary greens. Arugula, Pea shoots, and Beet greens. I even found this website called "Five Reasons to try Pea Shoots". I feel like I could overturn a truck I have so many vitamins coursing through my veins. So get out there and try new greens at your local farmer's market. Ask the farmer how to prepare them if you don't know, I guarantee you the other people in line will pipe in with their favorite recipe.

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