Big Grove Tavern, Champaign, Chef Jessica Gorin, Illinois, Mind of Our Chef

“Mind of Our Chef” Part Deux

Today on “Mind of Our Chef”  we dive into how Jessica landed in this Bubbly City and how the concept of Big Grove Tavern came about.

jbg kitchen

How did you end up in the CU?

My husband Jonathan and I moved to CU at the end of 2011 when he accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of Geography at UIUC.  We met in graduate school at UC Davis and he followed me as I worked around Napa and San Francisco.  When he got this opportunity, it was time for me to follow him.

How did BGT come about?

The university put me in touch with local restaurateurs.  I met with a number of people who were interested in investing in or opening a restaurant and just struck a rapport with the eventual owners of BGT.  After keeping in touch over the year before we moved to town, the investors and I settled on the idea of doing a farm to table restaurant that would utilize my West Coast sensibility in an accessible Midwestern context and focus on highlighting products from local farms.

Was Farm to Table always the way you saw yourself leaning?

Once I started cooking, seasonality was always very important to me.  Davis was similar to Champaign-Urbana- a college town in an agricultural area with a very strong farmer’s market.  I was always very aware of what produce was available and wanted to use what was at its peak.  As I continued to cook, I learned that restaurants could work directly with farmers and saw some of the benefits which that relationship produced- higher quality fresh ingredients, unique ingredients grown or raised specifically for the restaurant and a mutual sense of pride from the farmer and the chef for their partnership.  I think farm to table was always a pretty clear path for me.

What do you like most about being in Champaign?

We’ve met a lot of really great people since moving here and developed some good friendships.

What is your favorite thing to do around town in your free time?

We’re pretty chill in my house.  On my days off, we hang out with friends, watch movies and play card games.  When the weather’s nice, it’s fun to walk around the gardens at the Arboretum or head out to Meadowbrook.  And of course, it’s always good to have someone else cook for me- we spend a lot of time at Sakanaya!

jbg duck farmStay tuned after the holidays for the 3rd installment of “Mind of our Chef” with Chef Jessica to learn about her dreams for the future and predictions for the dining scene in the CU over the next few years.

Standard
Big Grove Tavern, Champaign, Charity, Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Family Service, Give Back, Illinois, Local Food, Local Support, Prosperity Gardens, Sustainable Farming, The Land Connection

Give Back Campaign- Three Month Recap

For the past three months, Big Grove has partnered up with a different, local non-profit each month as part of a campaign called Give Back. Our Give Back campaign aims to financially support and raise awareness for various local organizations within the Champaign Urbana area. Join us for lunch any weekday and a portion of the lunch sales will be donated to the featured organization! (Click here to see our full lunch menu.)

Here is a little information about each organization we have worked with thus far:


October 2014 Partner

October 2014 Partner

The Land Connection‘s mission is to train farmers in resilient, restorative farming techniques and work to protect and enhance farmland so that we, and generations to come, will have clean air and water, fertile soil, and healthy, delicious food. They work to inform the public about the sources of our food and why that matters.
Featured programs like Farm Dreams workshops and Farm Beginnings courses equip their students with the knowledge needed to start a farm business with a solid foundation for its success.
Check out the Farm Fresh Now series of vegetable profiles (with recipes), plus a local foods infograph showing what’s in season and when to spread the word about all the great produce grown by Illinois farmers!

Our donation will be going towards as scholarship for the Farm Beginnings Program

Our donation will be going towards as scholarship for the Farm Beginnings Program


November 2014 Partner

November 2014 Partner

Through neighborhood farming, Prosperity Gardens is dedicated to cultivating healthy communities by providing education, employment and collaborative opportunities.
Prosperity Gardens works with the R.E.A.D.Y. school and the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club to educate and promote healthy lifestyles. The gardens also employ students over the summer. These student employees help Prosperity Gardens to produce hundreds of pounds of produce annually to be sold from an on-site farm stand each Thursday from 3:00pm-5:30pm. This gives students an opportunity to learn small business skills like the importance of customer service and entrepreneurship.
Through urban gardening, Prosperity Gardens can grow a stronger, more prosperous and healthier community.
Check out their Cookbook for a collection of healthy and delicious recipes inspired by the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden!

The Founder of Prosperity Gardens, Nicole Bridges

The Founder of Prosperity Gardens, Nicole Bridges.


December 2014 Partner

December 2014 Partner

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank exists to alleviate hunger in eastern Illinois. Clients seeking help from the Foodbank’s agencies and programs include older adults, children, the working poor, single-parent families, and the newly unemployed. To a family in crisis, Foodbank programs provide a little hope and support during difficult times.
The Healthy Futures Initiative is the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s coordinated approach to alleviating child hunger. The initiative strives to increase children’s access to healthy foods such as produce, dairy, grains, meat, nonperishable fruits and vegetables during times of food insecurity. This includes programs like The Backpack Program which sends backpacks full of food home with children who are at risk of weekend hunger. Also, school pantries which provide a more readily accessible source of food assistance to low-income students and their families.
Click here to read more about the impact the Eastern Illinois Foodbank has on our community.


January 2015 Partner

January 2015 Partner

We are so pleased to announce our January Give Back partner is Champaign County’s Family Service– Senior Resource Center. Their mission is to support people across the generations by providing quality human services. Their reach is far and wide and includes programs such as Meals on Wheels, which delivers hot meals to seniors and the Senior Resource Center which provides seniors and their families with information about all services available in their area. There are many forms of counseling also available including Children First, a program that educates divorcing parents on the impact of divorce on children and helps them develop resources and new ways to relate to each other and their children.
Family Service aims to enrich lives across the generations. To learn more about their programs and how to get involved click here.

Thanks for reading and we hope this has given you an idea of why we at BGT feel giving back to our community is so important.

Happy Holidays from the BGT staff!

Happy Holidays from the BGT staff!

Standard
Big Grove Tavern, Chef Jessica Gorin, Mind of Our Chef

Mind of our Chef: Part 1

This is the first installment of “Mind of our Chef” featuring the one and only Chef Jessica Gorin! Below you will learn a little bit about her past and her life before coming to the Midwest.

Chef Jessica hard at work at the Urbana Farmer's Market. She spends every Summer Saturday morning picking up fresh produce for the week's menu!

Chef Jessica hard at work at the Urbana Farmer’s Market. She spends every Summer Saturday morning picking up fresh produce for the week’s menu!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in California and grew up in the small agricultural college town of Davis.  At the age of six, we moved to Houston, Texas, where I lived until I graduated high school and moved back to California.

 What was it like or what were some highlights from your childhood?

In Davis, there was a tomato field right behind our house.  Every summer, the air was filled with the smell of rotting tomatoes left in the field after the picker went through- I still can’t eat ketchup today without coating it in black pepper to cover the smell.

What did you eat as a child?

Until I was about 11 or 12, I had a lot of food allergies.  I couldn’t eat any dairy or peaches or strawberries.  We ended up eating a lot of Chinese and Japanese food because it was generally dairy-free.  I’d try to cheat and make allergen-free versions of foods I couldn’t eat like ice cream and yogurt by swirling together jam and Cool Whip.  It was pretty gross but I guess you could say that’s when I first started “cooking”.  Fortunately, I grew out of all my food allergies.

Growing up in Houston, we did go out for dinner frequently.  Houston had a very diverse restaurant scene and my parents were big believers in children ordering off the regular menu and behaving at the table so my brother and I went with them everywhere they wanted to eat.  We went to all sorts of restaurants- BBQ, Tex-Mex, Creole, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, Latin American.  I think it gave me an appreciation for lots of cuisines and for the artistry that can go into the presentation of food.

What were your dreams/ aspirations as a young adult?

I always enjoyed science and spent my summers working at the local science museum or as an intern in a genetics or psychology lab.  I really wanted to be a marine biologist.  Although I enjoyed cooking and would throw dinner parties for my friends, it didn’t even occur to me that working in restaurants could be a career.

How did you decided on school? What did you study?

I went to college at University of California, San Diego, which was right across the street from Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  I majored in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution.  After graduating, I moved back to Davis working on a PhD in Population Biology at UC Davis.  I was interested in speciation and extinction and how they were affected by human impacts on landscapes- basically conservation biology with a lot of genetics and mathematical modelling thrown in.

Looking back now, did you have any idea you would end up where you are today?

Never.  Looking back, I see all the pieces of being interested in food and cooking and local food systems but when I was young there was no Food Network and there wasn’t anything out there promoting the idea of chef as a career.  When I left grad school to pursue cooking it was because I sat back and thought about what I really wanted to do every day and what I could do that would impact the lives of people around me, and for me, that answer was cooking.

FullSizeRender_2Next time learn about how Jessica made the jump from California to good old Central Illinois!

Standard
Big Grove Tavern, Fairbury, Farmstead Visits, Illinois, Kilgus Farmstead, Local Food, Organic, Sustainable Farming

BGT Staff Visit to Kilgus Farmstead

The Big Grove Tavern staff had the opportunity to visit the Kilgus Farmstead (Fairbury, Illinois) this week. We source our milk, cream and ground beef from them. This family run farm houses 150 Jersey cows who are milked two times a day for their delicious milk and cream. Jenna, our wonderful tour guide, informed us that as a breed, Jersey cows give less milk than their black and white counterparts, but their milk is highly prized by cheese makers, chefs, and others because of its increased protein and calcium levels.

A week old baby Jersey cow

A week old baby Jersey cow

Jersey Cows and Snickers the Dog

Jersey Cows and Snickers the Dog

Upon our arrival we watched the milk bottling session for the day. We witnessed the gallons of milk being bottled that were to be delivered to our restaurant the following morning. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

In the milking room where cows are milked 2 times every day. 365 days a year!

In the milking room where cows are milked 2 times every day. 365 days a year!

We learned that Kilgus cows are on pasture starting in April and enjoy the pasture grass until November. During  the winter months the cows are fed a ration of non-GMO corn silage that is grown on the Kilgus farm.

Chef Jessica and her friends

Chef Jessica and her friends

Kilgus also is the home to pigs, goats and a few farm dogs!

Chef Matt and the pigs

Chef Matt and the pigs

If you eat at Chicago’s Girl and the Goat, The Little Goat or Frontera Grill, the goat comes from Kilgus Farmstead!

The Big Grove Staff after an awesome tour of the farm & loaded up with local goodies.

The Big Grove Staff after an awesome tour of the farm & loaded up with local goodies.

After our tour we enjoyed a lovely lunch at Fairbury’s own Lost in Time restaurant where they source their ingredients locally and make their dishes from scratch!

Standard