Okemo Mountain Resort - The Whole Animal ProjectNovember 4, 2015
Throughout Executive Chef Scot Emerson’s career, he has been working towards a more ethical and sustainable approach to food. To combat food waste, serve hormone-free product raised humanely, and sustain his farm partners, Chef Scot is committed to bringing whole animals into his kitchen at Okemo Mountain Resort.
Running a culinary program at a ski area means appealing to a wide segment of guests, many of whom aren’t focused on a farm-to-table concept. However, the corporate nature of the resort has actually proven to be an asset for this project – Chef Scot closely assigns value to each cut of the animal and makes sure to utilize and distribute product throughout Okemo's many restaurants. So far 24 pigs, a Wagyu beef cow from Spring-Rock Farm and chickens have come whole to Okemo. Chef Scot’s preference for whole animals has proven invaluable to his farm partners.
Chef Scot met poultry farmers Clark Parmelee and Tori Managan of Parmelee Farm at the Vermont Food Matchmaker (VFN coordinates) last winter. Already impressed with their chicken quality and ethical growing practices, his first question to the young farmers was about their goals. Clark and Tori had just received their USDA approval for a slaughtering facility and they were looking to increase their flock. Scot signed on to purchase 25-30% of their birds, amounting to 1,000 throughout the summer. Together, Scot, Clark and Tori planned and experimented with size and timing, so they could deliver consistent birds on a schedule that would allow the Okemo team to process them regularly and would also give Parmelee farm the ability to add other accounts into their cycle – they would never be producing exclusively for Okemo. “It’s important for me to not be too much of a farmer’s business plan,” Chef Scot explained, “that way, if anything changes on either side, the farmer will not fall flat.” Chef Scot aims for slow, controlled growth in his partnerships, making the relationship stronger and more reliable for both the farmer and chef.
Processing whole animals on-site has been an exciting endeavor for the team at Okemo – a strong team that includes all former executive chefs at stand-alone restaurants, like Chef Jason Tostrup, that were seeking more consistency in their work-life. Butchering, preparing charcuterie and utilizing bones, gizzards and other bits comes as a welcome and familiar challenge to them, but Chef Scot is forging new territory in the ski industry. The system that Chef Scot is developing with his team will lay the groundwork for others looking to move into sourcing whole animals, especially on a large scale– and he is excited to share his work.
We will continue to follow Chef Scot Emerson’s whole animal project and Okemo’s growing farm-to-slope movement. Stay tuned!