As featured on The Maryn.
“In the shade of wispy willows, the table is set. Green cafe chairs are pulled up. The crudités are cut. And the cork on a bottle of Grochau Cellars 2013 Pinot Noir is popped.
Welcome to Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, a rambling, rustic, 42-acre event space and working farm in Dexter, Michigan, that’s home to honeybees, a thriving flock of chickens, two mischievous goats named Bad Brad and Reese’s, and a complete culinary staff. There is a restored 181-year-old red barn where wedding ceremonies are held, a gleaming white farmhouse where nearly all of the cooking is done, and a half-acre plot of verdant land—affectionately known around the farm as “our secret garden”—where much of the kitchen’s organic veggies are grown.
The host, as always, is Kieron Hales, Cornman’s chef and co-owner, an oft-suspendered, hat-loving, joke-making Englishman who’s been “cheffing,” as he likes to say, since he was 13 years old. Trained in England and France as part of a culinary apprenticeship based out of Bournemouth & Poole College, Hales still marvels that he “started in a one-Michelin-star restaurant off the bat.”
From there, he says: “I got passed around by a bunch of chefs. And I’ve lived in 27 different countries. That’s the weirdness of my life.” He even worked, early on, for Paul Bocuse, the late nouvelle cuisine legend. “It was a life-changing experience,” he confides. “His restaurant is probably the most magical place I’ve been. It changed the way that I wanted to cook in the sense that it was not about froufrou pretty plates; it was about perfectly cooked food done right, and done right the first time. That is where I’ve stayed all of my life.”
At Cornman, Hales continues to pluck his best ideas from classic European culinary traditions. “A lot of old, historic recipes really get me excited,” he says. And his greatest resource lies stacked on the farmhouse’s shelves. “My mother had an amazing cookery book collection, and when she passed away recently, I managed to get hers with mine,” he says. “I’ve got about eight and a half thousand cookbooks here.”
On this day, he has just recently completed the latest Zingerman’s Cornman Farms seasonal menu. (“My process? I wander through my cookbook collection like a madman.”) And now, it’s finally time for an amuse-bouche, along with several other courses, in the secret garden. Dressed in his bucolic chef’s best, Hales implores his guests: “Eat up, mes amis!””
Click here to access the below recipes for this four course dinner!
- Field Crudites Board with Thyme Aioli
- Romesco and Farmhouse Crackers
- Basil Madeleines
- Arugula, Parmesan, and Apple Salad with a Red Wine Gastrique
- Cider-and-Rosemary-Braised Hen
- Pomme Fondant
- Sage Brussel Sprouts