Exclusive Excerpts From Chef Damon Baehrel’s New Book, ‘Native Harvest’

December 19, 2016 5:00 am
Damon Baehrel Native Harvest
(Courtesy of Lightbulb Press)
Damon Baehrel Native Harvest
(Lightbulb Press)


This January, chef Damon Baehrel—who owns one of the most exclusive restaurants in the world—will be publishing his first book, Native Harvest, on Lightbulb Press. (You can pre-order a copy here.)

In advance of the book’s publication, the publisher has generously provided RealClearLife with three separate excerpts, all of which focus on a different aspect of the chef’s food production process. Find each excerpt below, along with a short explanation.

Introduction to the Concept of ‘Native Harvest’ (Click Here for Excerpt)
Here, Baehrel walks you through his process of harvesting foodstuffs from the 12 acres of land that he owns. As noted in RealClearLife‘s feature on the chef, he utilizes a number of natural ingredients—including saps, pine needles, and wild berries—to create the multi-course meals he serves to the patrons able to land a reservation at his restaurant, Damon Baehrel. (Note: The carrot slush at the bottom of the page is what he served me as one of my mini-courses.)

Harvesting Trees, Fruits, and Berries (Click Here for Excerpt)
In this section, Baehrel literally takes you into the woods behind his property and shows you how he preps things like tree wood, sap, and wild berries into items that he serves to his guests. (He rightly includes a caveat for those thinking about cutting down and harvesting a tree.)

Making Your Own Cheese and Butter (Click Here for Excerpt)
Make your own cheese and butter? Sign us the hell up. It’s not lost on me that this runs counter to what Baehrel told me in our interview: that he doesn’t use butter or cream in his dishes. But he notes at the top of the chapter excerpt that it has been a hobby of his, and that’s why it was incorporated into his Native Harvest process. (Harmless, right?)

Patrons at his restaurant get to try his homemade cheeses during their multi-course dining experience. It’s also worth noting that The New Yorker‘s Nick Paumgarten had this to say about the chef’s supposed cheese-making abilities in the magazine’s feature: “Cheese experts I spoke with considered it highly unlikely, especially in light of Baehrel’s claim that he makes cheese without rennet, the standard curdling enzyme; he said that he used organic coagulants, such as nettles or carrot-top hay.”

Clearly in counterpoint to this, Baehrel notes at the top of the chapter, “I even produce the acid or rennet necessary to make the cheeses from native or cultivated ingredients found on the property.” It seems like an awful long way to go to publish sweeping falsehoods in a forthcoming book—but it’s happened before (see: James Frey). I guess we’ll all just have to follow Baehrel’s steps and see if cheese happens.

—Will Levith for RealClearLife


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