By Karen Billing
The Good Earth/Great Chefs series is back at The Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe on Sunday, Nov. 16, with a book signing with Chef Sean Brock.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. guests are welcome to stop by and purchase a signed copy of Brock’s long-awaited cookbook “Heritage.” The event is free and will feature live music from the bluegrass band Box Canyon and food prepared in tribute to Brock’s Southern cuisine style using Chino-fresh ingredients. Dishes to be sampled on Sunday include creamed corn, pickled green tomato and a special surprise treat.
“‘Heritage’ will thrill, surprise and delight as readers discover what rich, glorious and delicious culinary history we once had — and thanks to chefs like Sean, will surely have again,” Chef Anthony Bourdain said in his review of the cookbook. “You too can cook this stuff. And you should.”
Brock is a favorite among chefs as he seeks to revive what was most beautiful about Southern food. A James Beard Award winner, he is the chef behind restaurants Husk in Charleston, South Carolina and Nashville and McCrady’s in Charleston. He recently hosted the second season of the PBS series “Mind of a Chef.” Along with a small group of local historians, plant geneticists and farmers, he is reintroducing dozens of heirloom greens and grains, many of them not tasted since the 1800s.
“He’s going back to the Southern traditions and roots and making them alive,” said Nina MacConnel, one of the founders of Good Earth/Great Chefs. “He’s preserving and reinterpreting heritage foods of the South.”
MacConnel said some the grains he’s bringing back are Carolina Gold Rice, a sweet-flavored long-grain rice; and benne seeds, which were grown in all great Carolina kitchen gardens during the Colonial and Antebellum eras.
“He’s promoting the farmers of these greens and grains so it makes it sustainable for them to go back and grow the way it’s supposed to be grown,” MacConnel said.
“He’s doing something that’s really different and interesting,” echoed Jennifer de la Fuente of Good Earth/Great Chefs.
Over the past four years, Good Earth/Great Chefs has brought an all-star lineup of cookbook authors to the farm such as Alice Waters, David Tanis, Jonathan Waxman and Ruth Reichl. They average four events a year.
Good Earth/Great Chefs was founded in 2011 by MacConnel, who is married to Tom Chino, and Milane Christianson, the former owner of the Book Works bookstore in Del Mar. The team also includes de la Fuente and Adele Irwin, who both used to work in the Book Works with Christianson.
The group wanted to start the cookbook author series after the Book Works closed its doors and no one was bringing these authors to town anymore. Chino’s seemed a natural fit to carry on the tradition.
“It has been wonderful to join it up with the farm,” MacConnel said. “All of the people who come here love food and the conversations are wonderful. The authors always say it’s their favorite book signing they’ve ever done.”
Sadly, Christianson was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and passed away in April 2013.
“She’s a big part of this,” de la Fuente said. “She’s here in spirit.”
“She’s our inspiration of how to be booksellers,” MacConnel said. “She had an attitude about business, enjoying it and making it a party.”
The Good Earth/Great Chefs events are always “free-form,” de la Fuente said, more like a party than a structured event.
“The events create a real sense of community and a happy feel, which is nice,” said MacConnel.
People can sample foods, listen to live music, chat with the author about recipes and peruse what’s fresh from Chino’s. MacConnel said they have tons of sweet potato and squash right now and that after one of the worst tomato seasons on record, their tomatoes are the best they’ve been all summer — in November.
Every book signing features a pop-up pantry, a small collection of curated items such as wild rice from a Native American reservation in Wisconsin, fine Spanish tuna and Tuscan olive oil, Rigel Stuhmiller dish towels and letterpress cards, Japanese aprons made exclusively for Chino’s, and Omnivore Salt, a special blend made by Angelo Garro based on his grandmother’s recipe from Sicily.
Books can be pre-ordered on the Good Earth/Great Chefs website, goodearthgreatchefs.com. The Chino Farm is at 6123 Calzada del Bosque.
The next event is scheduled for March 22, 2015 and will feature Chef April Bloomfield, known for her restaurant The Spotted Pig, with her latest cookbook, “A Girl and Her Greens.”