Alberta’s best ingredients are showcased at Farm
Local. Sustainable. Quality. Honest.
A lot of new restaurants in the last few years abide by this philosophy – and why not? Diners are more aware of what goes into their food than ever, and they seek out restaurants that support local suppliers, not just for the economy’s sake but also to guarantee they enjoy the best quality meal.
Older, more established restaurants have tried to adopt more local ingredients into their menus as well but not everybody can make it work, as for some, the price just isn’t right.
Farm, located on one of the busiest and most competitive areas of 17th Avenue SW, pioneered the idea of farm-to-fork dining when they opened in 2008, and have been able to grow their business as steadily as Alberta farmers grow their crops.
“I think people were curious about what we were going to do when we decided to open the restaurant,” said Janice Beaton, owner and operator of Farm and Janice Beaton’s Fine Cheeses. “It was focused around cheese and charcuterie. We did have some main course items, but not nearly to the extent of what we have today.”
“We’ve really evolved over the last couple years since Mark has been with us, and of course Pete too,” Beaton added. Farm’s General Manager, Mark Carrillo, has overseen the majority of Farm’s transformation into one of Calgary’s best restaurants over the past four years. He, and Executive Chef Pete Goldberg, have collaborated their culinary passion and skills to elevate what it means to truly support local, sustainable food sources.
“We use as much local as we can but 100 percent is impossible,” Carrillo said. “I do my very best to make sure that everything at least comes from Canada, and I ask my suppliers and they do a really good job. It’s interesting to see how awareness is coming around.”
“When we first opened, the concept of this restaurant was to be more of a tasting kitchen to showcase the cheeses and the meats,” Carrillo said. “Then it just started to transform and our dishes got more complicated, and we were just listening to what the public wanted.”
In October 2010, one married couple was celebrating their first anniversary by enjoying a good meal at Farm. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the evening they enjoyed would help shape the path of the restaurant and their lives.
Executive Chef Pete Goldberg and his wife enjoyed their meal and the service so much that night that his wife decided to apply for a serving position soon after, as they had just recently moved to the city looking for work. Goldberg, originally from Delaware, worked most of his culinary career in America jumping from his hometown of Wilmington to Colorado, California and even temporarily in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“As a chef, I can go anywhere,” said Goldberg. “We moved here because of my wife’s career. Even in the States, in certain areas, it’s tougher but as a chef, you can always find work.”
“When we came here for out first wedding anniversary, we sat at that table, (points to a small table for two by the window) and it was the first place we had gone out to eat anywhere,” Goldberg said. “We didn’t have a lot of money. We came to Calgary to get back on our feet, and we came here for our anniversary, and we had amazing food and we thought this place was awesome.”
Goldberg’s wife was in the midst of trying to get a job in graphic design and communications but wanted to get a serving job while she was trying to get herself established. Upon Pete’s suggestion, she applied. After she got the job, Pete would often stop by for dinner or drinks to see his wife and became quite familiar with the staff and the chef at the time. Pete, however, had to wait on proper work permits to be able to stay in the country with his wife and reluctantly went back home to Delaware for the summer months waiting to get back to Calgary.
“I went back there and really honed my skills for when I was able to work here,” Goldberg said. “I was lead sauté there and I really just put my head down and worked for four months straight, six or seven day days a week. All I wanted to do was save my money and get back to my wife.”
Once back in Calgary, and after being offered the Executive Chef position in the fall of 2011, Goldberg quickly put his stamp on Farm, changing all three menus in the span of a few weeks, branding it with his personality and background in hearty comfort classics.
“I’ve always had an interest in cooking,” Goldberg said. “My grandfather’s from Memphis and he was a really good cook. He was a pit master and I thought it was always really cool that he was a great cook.” “My first job I ever had was cooking cheese steaks and hoagies when I was 15 years old,” Goldberg added. “I’ve cooked everything from hoagies and cheese steaks all the way up to assisting with some extremely complex cooking. I’ve worked in all the kitchens you see on TV. I’ve been screamed at, yelled at and worked in restaurants where you do 400 covers a night.”
Goldberg had never had the opportunity to command his own kitchen untilhe came to Farm. All the years slogging through countless kitchens across North America, working with many talented chefs, seeded a great work ethic when it was finally time for Goldberg to take the reins. “My personal philosophy is molded after a sous chef I worked with for four years,” Goldberg said. “He never separated himself from people. He mopped floors next to me at the end of the night, and he lead by example and always kept a cool head.”
“I always said that if I’m ever in this position, I am not going to scream at people or make them feel bad,” Goldberg added. “I try to encourage a positive environment where people are excited about the food they cook.”
With simple, honest food in his blood, the opportunity to work at Farm was quite literally a no-brainer. An open-kitchen, friendly staff, and the ability to build a relationship with customers while they enjoy hearty home-style food, drew Goldberg in as a change of pace from the manic bustling restaurants he was used to.
“I obviously like the restaurant. Farm to table, and the food was phenomenal,” Goldberg said. “I met with the chef at the time and he needed somebody. I came here for the concept, I really did. As soon as I stepped in, I had already been sous chef here for a month, so I had a chance to see how this place works,” Goldberg added.
In a matter of weeks Goldberg and Carrillo worked together to put a new spin on Farm starting first with brunch but eventually changing all three menus. “There are certain things in this restaurant like the Mac and Cheese that have been a staple here, just like the charcuterie and the cheese program,” Goldberg said. “Mark really gave me a good grace period with the dinner menu but I actually changed that relatively quickly.”
Farm to fork dining in Calgary is more than the simple idea of cooking with local ingredients. It’s cooking with meat and produce from all over our province and even the rest of the country, that arrives on your plate with as little burden on the environment as possible. There still remains a bit of an educational process with some customers, as some misconceptions linger with what Canada, let alone Alberta, has to offer season-to-season.
“I’ve cooked in northern California and northern Colorado where the growing season can be year-round and sometimes people don’t understand that in our evolution in western society, you’re not supposed to eat tomatoes in the middle of winter,” Goldberg said. “You just don’t. You’re eating things like cabbage and kale and parsnips because that’s what’s been stockpiled. The part that I love the most about this place is sourcing those things and flowing with what’s available.”
“This restaurant has evolved, so the customers have evolved,” Carrillo added. “There’s some people who get us and some people who don’t. We don’t advertise, it’s a lot of word of mouth. Who we draw is often because they’ve spoken to another person about us and they’re attracted to that type of cuisine.” With simple, straightforward and truly satisfying food, Farm is busier now than they’ve ever been. Their entire staff, from Janice to Mark and Pete and the talented staff working for them, only want you to enjoy every bite.
“We make a large effort to make it like a warm blanket when you come here; from the lighting, to the walls, the colour tones, the service,” Carrillo said. “We want them to feel as soon as they come in to be at ease and be comfortable.”
“This restaurant embodies good Alberta food,” Goldberg added. “People want to be proud about being from Alberta and there’s such a great network of agriculture and food, and the quality of food that you get here is just amazing. I’ve worked in California and everything, but the stuff that comes through the doors here that the farmers are dropping off is beautiful.” Wholesome food and drink in an entirely open kitchen servedthroughout the day.
The diner’s relationship with the food is reflected in the restaurant’s relationship with its suppliers.
Photo by Cory Knibutat