BY SUSAN WENZEL
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
September 17, 2014
What do you get when you combine…
• an appetite for preparing edible masterpieces
• featuring premium local goods and
• a raw hunger for promoting the importance of
• supporting community food sources with
• one superior culinary talent?
You get Chef Vincent Nattress.
But, what do you get when you combine…
• the expertise of Chef Vincent Nattress with
•the bountiful harvests of Whidbey Island?
You get the Taste of Whidbey annual food feast, celebrating the best food and beverages that this Puget Sound food destination has to offer.
As the owner of the much-lauded Cultivar Catering, Nattress knows fresh food is the best food. After spending decades honing his skills in fine restaurants throughout Europe and Napa Valley, Nattress returned to his roots on Whidbey Island because—everyone knows—Whidbey fresh is even better than the best.
“There is no similarity between fresh and local [versus] something grown in California or Mexico and shipped in. It’s like night and day,” said Nattress. “Ultimately, I am just greedy for the flavor of fresh and I want to share that with everyone.”
This diet doctrine is largely why he and his family are happy to make their home on a five-acre farm in the Bayview area of Langley.
“This land was a field of thistles when we bought it,” said Nattress. “But now it is back in agriculture. Preservation is a great reason to eat—to grow—local. Once farmland is lost, you can’t always get it back.”
Through the labors of Nattress’ partner and chief cultivator, Blake Mennella, the once weedy soil has since been transformed into a thriving, organic farm—the source of much of what he needs to prepare fabulous dishes for his catering events, such as the regularly sold-out winemaker dinners for the likes of Spoiled Dog Winery and Ott & Murphy Wines.
If he needs an ingredient not grown on his farm, Nattress certainly knows where to find it.
“I get sheep’s milk cheese from Glendale Shepherd and goat’s milk cheese from Vicky Brown of Little Brown Farm. Georgie Smith at Willowood Farm is where I go for vegetables and, of course, garlic,” said Nattress. “I also use 3 Sisters beef. Shelly Muzzall is always good about having the strange cuts that I need like ox tail; she can always give me what I need when I need it.”
As the president of Slow Food Whidbey, Nattress is best able to tout the virtues of sourcing food from close to home through events such as the upcoming Taste of Whidbey.
“There are many motives for loving locally produced food—political, economic, nutritional or even simply to maintain the bucolic atmosphere of the island—but the truth is, you can never get produce as fresh as when you walk into the back yard and pick it,” said Nattress. “Nothing tastes as good as fresh, local food that is minutes out of the garden.”
Soon Nattress will be able to share his passion for all that is local with bona-fide farm-to-table dining when his latest venture, The Orchard Kitchen, opens on his Bayview farm late in 2014. At The Orchard Kitchen, guests will explore the farm while learning how to grow, prepare and, of course, savor the fruits of Nattress’ labors.
Until then, satiate the crave for Whidbey Island goodness by attending the Taste of Whidbey, to be held at Greenbank Farm on Sunday, Sept. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $30 per person and include ten tastes from Whidbey Island favorites, including Spoiled Dog Winery, Frasers Gourmet Hideaway, bayleaf, Mukilteo Coffee Roasters, Front Street Grill, Tree-Top Baking, The Glass Alley Café and more.
Purchase tickets through Brown Paper Tickets or at many fine Whidbey food and wine purveyors including Captain Whidbey Inn, bayleaf, Oystercatcher Restaurant and Front Street Grill in Coupeville as well as Greenbank Farm Wine Shop and Little Brown Farm, Blooms Tasting Room, and Comforts of Whidbey winery on the south end.
Visit the Cultivar Catering website or call 360-969-4200 to plan a special event or learn more about Chef Vincent Nattress.
Image at top: Chef Vincent Nattress, cooking at a Spoiled Dog Winemaker’s Dinner earlier this year. (photo by David Welton)
Susan Wenzel, food writer, believes in the power of locally produced food to fortify the health and well-being of both the individual and the community as a whole.
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