Notes from Chef Neale Aziz
I started South Pond making food; gathering from a small garden and making different dishes to sell first in a food delivery service and then here from the farm. In the early days, I did most of the cooking asking for help with larger events like weddings – weddings being the only larger events that we did. I love sauces, vinaigrettes, using herbs, garlic and oil to “dress up” our very fresh ingredients. I also love baking bread and believe that bread is one of the fundamental foundations of a shared meal.
I’m not an expert but I have always wanted to share the love of good food and to create the surroundings for others to come to the farm and appreciate the quality of ingredients, the land and simple farm food with a bit of a twist. Nine years later after my first meal deliveries, tonight, we are preparing for the first shoulder season hunter full moon supper and I hear the winds howling outside before the sun is up. It is going to be a challenge to not only cook and prepare food outside but to ensure our guests will be comfortable and enjoy the experience.
Sharing the kitchen
Over the past few years, there have been different people in our kitchen lending their skills and talents to the meal. Sharing in a mutual philosophy of food is one of the most important components of working here in our kitchen. Our chef Neale shares this philosophy, cooking with great ingredients, connecting with local providers all in an effort to create an authentic guest experience – and of course make something delicious. It is the person in charge of the kitchen that most importantly aligns with my vision and the essence of South Pond. I would like to share some of his thoughts about his cooking and interests and over time, use this space to” interview” other members of our team who make all we do at the farm possible.
My future vision of the farm is to become not only a destination to enjoy the experience of food but also to learn how to grow, prepare, cook and bake. It will take some time to build but it is possible. One loyal customer at a time. A Culinary Farm destination; a centre for learning about and growing food.
Interview with Chef Neale
How long have you been in the food industry and what is your background?
Neale: I started taking cooking seriously in high school when I worked under a chef to learn some culinary basics. I’ve been working with food since then, moving around to different kitchens to learn new skills.
Q: What’s your favourite meal or dish to cook/create?
Neale: I don’t really have one favourite dish. I try to to bring an exploratory attitude to my cooking, so every time I start from a clean slate and try to highlight the best qualities of whatever food I’m working with.
Q: What is your favourite food?
Neale: Really good bread and really good butter.
Q: What connects you to food, when did you realize you wanted to work in culinary?
Neale: All of my formative culinary experiences came from my family. Our holidays always revolve around food, with everyone contributing to the meal. I have vivid memories of making strawberry jam in the spring, chili sauce in the late summer, stuffing turkeys in the fall, and Christmas dinner in the winter. In all of my cooking I’m trying to recreate and share those feelings.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of food?
Neale: I spend most of my time outside the kitchen cooking for my family.
Q: If you could keep only five possessions, what would they be?
My grandfathers butcher knife
Lodge cast iron combo cooker
My favourite record, All Things Must Pass
(Photo credits: Ash Naylor Photography)