The August 2, 2014 session of the “Farm to Plate” cooking demonstration will feature guest chef – Chef Michael Morton of the brown Derby Roadhouse and Ontario Event Center. This program is to help in the understanding of where food comes from and how to use fresh produce and ingredients through chef demonstrations.
Chef Michael Morton considers the Mansfield area to be his hometown. He was born elsewhere but when he was 10 years old his family moved to a farm/orchard in the area. When Michael was about 16, his career in the restaurant business started at the Brown Derby in Ontario where he now is the head chef. Chef Michael was a table busser. Whie working there, he met a great waitress named Louise- he later married Louise and she now works at the corporate headquarters. After Michael graduated from high school, he realized that he needed more formal training and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Pennsylvania. His coursework was formal chef’s training and some extra training in pastry making.
After graduation he worked for the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain. He eventually took a position with the company traveling and helping to set up new restaurants with a specialty in teaching the staff how to properly cook the steaks. Michael spent the next few years as the chef in a fine dining restaurant in the Short North area of Columbus. When asked why he returned to the Mansfield area, he stated that it was to be closer to his family. Chef Michael enjoys going to his parents’ farm and working in the orchard. He says that he enjoys everything from pruning to picking.
When asked about the concept of “Farm to Plate,” he reported that he uses as much fresh produce as he can get whether it is directly from a small farmer or through the Bloomingrove Auction near Shiloh which is made up of small growers.
A tip when picking out produce, Michael says “is to make certain that it is the freshest. It is not always the prettiest that is the best. It is important to feel the fruit, observe the texture and the smell. It is also important to check the stem and its color.” Chef Michael always uses fresh herbs when cooking.
When the chef is not working, he enjoys and keeps busy by raising chickens (meat and eggs); making maple syrup, baking bread (especially muffins and bagels); hunting and then making sausage from the animals; growing a large garden and then canning the produce. Also in his spare time he has started to brew beer.
As far as trends in some areas of new restaurants, he foresees a smaller plate of food and more restaurants being associated with brewing their own house beer or wine. Chef Morton’s philosophy is: “Don’t be afraid to mess up – you learn something and have fun doing it.”
Richland County Farm to Plate is a program from the Hazelgrove Farm Bureau Community Council held at the Farmer’s Market in Shelby. The Richland Community Development Group Local Foods/Ag sector, the Shelby Foundation and Creating Healthy Communities and a host of other partners, supporters and volunteers have joined together to provide this exciting program linking the growers of our local foods with local chefs and with consumers. The cooking demonstration includes the opportunity for taste testing. Recipes and “Market Money” to buy needed ingredients at the market are available. Kids are included in healthy activities too with concurrent sessions presented by Kim Stover from the Shelby YMCA. This is a great opportunity to learn about and support our local food economy, and to be newly inspired to eat healthy and to eat fresh. Stay up to date with Richland County Farm to Plate events by “liking” us on Facebook!
Once again Chef Michael Morton is the head chef at the Brown Derby in Ontario which is famous for the steaks and the Ontario Event Center which provides catering and banquet services for 25 to 1500 guests. The businesses are located at 3985 Park Avenue, Ontario (419-529-2959).