66was my grandfather Reading who always cooked theturkey for Thanksgiving each year. It was his job as thehead of our family and the host of Thanksgiving on his150 acres of farmland in Moffat, Ontario. The turkeywould always be the focal point of discussion at the table. Was it"too dry, too tough, or moist and tender?" As I got older, I realizedmore and more that the turkey was not important to me. I was toobusy enjoying all the vegetables and side dishes. Year after year myportion of turkey kept getting smaller, and my plate was filling morewith brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, squash, two kinds of stuffing,pickled beets, carrots... the list would go on and on. The sides werethe exciting part of the meal. They are what made my Thanksgiving. As I started to cook professionally, I realized that this same themeapplied. Although I have cooked fish and meat in some of thegreatest kitchens under the watchful eyes of renowned chefs, itwas the vegetables that always drew my primary focus. It was onthese stations that I could see the change of season, month aftermonth or even week after week. Ramps, morels, peas, asparagus,strawberries, summer squash, peaches, tomatoes, corn... onething after another would pop up. Amazingly, just when I was tiredof one vegetable, another seemed to take its place. This approachof constant change is how we cook at Auberge du Pommier, andin my own home as well."What's for dinner?" So many times this question is answeredwith a quick response of steak, chicken, or pork chops. Even atour restaurants, our dishes are described as "dry aged beef" or"West Coast halibut." I often think that this whole idea isbackwards. We really shouldn't be walking into our local grocer,selecting our protein, and then trying to find what will accompanyit. Nor should we be looking up a recipe for a vegetable to servewith chicken. Rather, let's simply choose what is seasonal and atits peak. Let's start with our farmers' markets.Putting this to the test, my sous chef and I spend a lot of time atfarmers' markets. By walking around the market, one can really geta good sense of what's in season and tastes most delicious. Theseitems should then become the focus of the dish. Once you selecta few seasonal items, the menu usually falls into place. AtAuberge, we are constantly in contact with different farms to seewhat's coming into season and how to plan the menu around it. Infact, we often use the same product in many entrees so that ourmenu is truly reflective of the moment. I can get a text with apicture of a head of Napa cabbage in the field in the morning, andhave it on the menu for dinner service that evening. We are capableof providing the freshest in-season produce to our guests, while atthe same time supporting our local farmers and agriculture.My grandfather and his Thanksgiving turkeys will always hold aspecial place in my childhood memories, but it is the side dishesthat inspire me today. Vegetables keep my job exciting, my menusfresh and innovative, and ensure our dishes taste delicious.Chef Marc St. Jacques was born in Belgium and raised in Canada.Recently, he was Executive Chef at the Michael Mina Restaurant inthe Bellagio Resort & Casino, Las Vegas. Marc was instrumental inthe restaurant earning top honours like the New York Post's Top 10Restaurants in Las Vegas, the Forbes Travel Guide Four Star Awardand the Michelin Guide One Star. He brings his innovative culinaryvision to the kitchens of Auberge du Pommier, celebrating its 25thyear of fine French cuisine. www.oliverbonacini.comItBY MARC ST. JACQUES, EXECUTIVE CHEF, AUBERGE DU POMMIERCreating menus with farm fresh ingredientsSeasonalSelections
67We really shouldn't bewalking into our localgrocer, selecting ourprotein, and then trying tofind what will accompanyit... Once you select a fewseasonal items, the menuusually falls into place.""