For Chef Scott Hergott, it's about so much more than flavour.
As he prepares his team from Sky Bistro for the upcoming Cochon555 event in Banff on April 6, Chef Scott is making it clear that there's power in food. Supporting small family farms is not only good for the economy, it's also good for the palate. After all, Chef argues, local food just tastes better.
Offering a farm-friendly menu has been a cornerstone at Sky Bistro since the gorgeous restaurant on top of Sulphur Mountain opened in 2016. It's part of what Chef Scott calls a 'back to basics' trend in cuisine—think charcuterie boards, chefs curing their own meats and nose-to-tail dishes. A simplified approach to butchery is on-trend.
"A lot of old practices have come back again," he says. The idea is to limit food waste, avoid overproduction and, ultimately, to keep things simple.
Chef Scott is dedicated to working locally. This involves sourcing everything from tomatoes and seafood to chicken and cheeses from sources as sustainable and as close to Banff as possible. In terms of bringing in high-quality pork, Chef is relentless in his hunt for the best. And his standards are high.
For both Cochon555, and for the new Sky Bistro menu set to launch this spring, Chef Scott has been working directly with the farmers from Bear and The Flower Farm, located just outside Airdrie, Alberta. It's a family-run farm that produces free range natural pork that's loaded with Omega 3s. Pigs here are raised mostly outdoors with a plant-based diet that is thoroughly conscientious. For a chef, it's undeniably good.
"I'm looking for consistency in the product, for great marbling and for a great flavour," he says. "What these farmers have is exactly what I'm looking for. And I know exactly what I'm getting."
Pork has become a key product on the cutting edge of the farm-first approach to cuisine because diners love eating it, whether it's pork belly, pork loin, pork shoulder or smoked ham (just to name a few of the products the Bear and The Flower offer). But also because chefs generally love working with pork.
"Pork is very versatile, there are so many things you can do with it," Chef Scott says. "You can really showcase the flavours of Alberta."
Cochon555 is a renowned culinary event that's held annually in places like New York City, San Francisco and Napa Valley. It's a fundraiser, a culinary competition and a theatrical good time. It comes to Canada for the first time later this month in Banff. Proceeds from the event will be split evenly between The Banff Food Bank and The Piggy Bank, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and public education of heritage-breed pork. The Piggy Bank offers support to local farmers, educators and industry professionals in order to help forward their mandate of creating "Noah's Ark" for heritage breed pigs.
At the event, Sky Bistro will be serving a "Welcome Bite" to event guests as they make their way into the hall. They'll be getting guests excited and offering a simple yet incredibly complex pork dish.
For Cochon555, Chef Scott is preparing a confit shoulder of pork with smoked and pickled jalapeño and cold-pressed Canadian canola oil chimichurri. The shoulder will be cooked in the fat rendered from the skin. The skin will then will be dried and turned into chicarrons, a style of pork rinds popular in Latin America. Chef will smoke and pickle jalapeños in-house for a smoky element and then top with chimichurri sauce that has a local spin.
“This will allow us to use parts of the animal that are not always used and align us with the values of using as much of the animal as possible,” Chef Scott says. “We are going to mix it up a little and forage our own backyard (outside the national park of course) to find some spruce leaves to add a Rocky Mountain element to the chimichurri.”
Bear and The Flower’s pork will also be featured in the new Spring 2018 Sky Bistro menu. This time, it's a twice-baked pork belly that has been braised for 24 hours. While it warms, it gets pressed. It's then seared, adding a crackling element, and served with polenta and shaved fennel. To finish the dish, Chef garnishes it with pickled radish and the same chimichurri which he'll be using at the Cochon555 event.
"The creaminess of the polenta, the quality of the pork from Bear the The Flower's Farm, the crackling of the skin and then some pop from the pickling—it's going to be good!"
The dish will feature on the new menu at Sky Bistro, slated to launch May 1.
Don't miss the new menu at Sky Bistro. Book the Sky Experience to try the dish for yourself.
"It's important to me to showcase every part of the animal. This may mean that preparing a dish takes longer or it requires a higher technique and skill. But ultimately, it's a way to both reduce waste and prepare a really special dish. It's worth it."