, a John Burroughs grad who worked his way to the top of the Michael Mina
restaurant empire, tells Gut Check
that he's setting aside the fancy toque for a time in order to stick his hands in the dirt in northeast Missouri.
Carron is opening the Milkweed Mercantile Cafe
in mid-March at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage
in Rutledge, Missouri
(about three hours from St. Louis). He's tentatively calling the hyper-local food he plans to serve "new American farmhouse cooking."
Think: salads dressed with oil made from the Show-Me state's pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts. Or miso-braised, heritage pork tamale, assembled with Missouri-grown pork, corn and soybeans.
"The idea is to ask, Why does a salad only get to be dressed in olive
oil at 99 percent of restaurants? It just doesn't make sense when
there's all these delicious walnuts growing all over the state," says Carron.
"It'll take some time and the cuisine will evolve as we go, but that's
the starting point, and that's what's exciting -- those restrictions
will force us to be creative in a different way."
Carron says he's hoping to strike up direct partnerships with area farmers who will grow to his specifications and will be guaranteed a market for their harvest. "It takes away a lot of the risk for the farmers," he says.
Because the 20-seat cafe is located in an eco-village that relies primarily on solar power, Carron will also be constrained with his food storage and prep. He's planning a root cellar, and expects to cure and can as much as possible. (His oven and six-burner stove runs off propane.)
Carron has been helping out at the eco-village for the last twelve years, and moved there from Las Vegas about a month ago. He will continue to work as corporate chef for the Mina Group
, overseeing menus at all of the James Beard Award-winning chef's restaurants, while cooking at Milkweed.
The cafe (located inside a new inn) is expected to open on March 12, the same weekend that Carron will host a seminar
on fermentation, with Wild Fermentation
author Sandor Ellix Katz