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One Chef’s Slow Food Journey

Jason Porter

Jason Porter

Maybe it was the 4-10 rifle I received for my fifth birthday, or the 1944 Farmall H tractor I bought when I was 12. Perhaps it was the fact that I spent my childhood during a time when everything took a little longer. A time when we played in the woods and corn fields and down by the creek catching crawdads. How I came to the Slow Food Movement is more about a life lived than it is about a new found philosophy.

Coming from a family which was only a generation or two removed from farm life, our home carried on many rural culinary traditions, some of which I continue to practice. One of these traditions was a batch of sweet pickles made annually by my Mom, for whom I had endless love and admiration. I loved those pickles!  You know the pickles: the ones where you drive out to the farm of someone you know, sit around the kitchen table drinking sweet tea and telling stories, then leave hours later with a few bushels of cucumbers. You wash them, cut them, and measure all of the ingredients, and this is where my memory becomes faded – though I do recall Mom using several large pickle crocks that weighed a ton, at least to a kid! One year in particular, the pickle project had failed and much of the conversation revolved around the unseasonably warm weather we were having as a possible culprit.

Today I find myself drawing on those early experiences and traditions both personally and professionally. In years past, I have meandered country roads destined for the buffalo farm seeking a local alternative to beef for our menu. I visited a shrimp farm out in the middle of nowhere that offered me hope, filling me with passion and a desire to do what I believed to be right. And most recently, I have spent hours making goat cheese at a local farm and butchering in the local butcher shop. These experiences were all partly about educating myself, but more importantly they were about people. People like you and me who do what others can’t (or won’t) in our attempt to preserve something, maybe ourselves.

Twenty years of food and beverage experience, coupled with a lifetime of passion for food, has brought me to my biggest and most exciting professional challenge yet. You can find much of this passion disseminated at two of Grand Rapid’s newest restaurants:  Brighton Graye’s Bistro and Little Lucy’s Cafe, located in the Creston neighborhood at 1747 Plainfield Ave. NE, 49505. Years in the making and prepared in a style which is affectionately referred to as “Modern American,” these two restaurants will offer a plethora of inspired ingredients, including seasonal produce procured within a mile or two from our doors.

Speaking of doors, two of our restaurant doors in particular are worth noting here. The first door is located directly off of the Bistro kitchen and leads into the greenhouse where we hope to farm many of our ingredients. The second door grants rooftop access to a space for us to grow additional produce as well as care for a colony of honey bees and their hives. The bees will assist with pollinating heirloom plants in addition to contributing their honey to the cuisine that we will be preparing in the restaurant below.

A chef wears many hats, but the one I hope to be wearing most often carries with it the message of what the Slow Food Movement means to me: honesty, integrity, humility, generosity, love, kindness, and compassion.

Food is life – Jason Porter

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