Chef Adrian Beaty and his wife Shannon, co-owners of
Seasonal 56 and Seasonal Experience catering, deserve a
food television show of their own.
A more apt local food love story might never be found. After all, it was watching cooking shows on television that brought the couple, now with two boys, together in the first place. What began as a university bachelor working his charms in the kitchen evolved from inspiration to obsession for Adrian.
Hundreds of hours of videotape later, the greatest impression left upon Adrian was by a chef going straight to the fi eld to pick out his peppers for the evening menu. He decided to explore the ethos more fully – and never looked back.
No one has benefi ted more from Adrian’s red pepper epiphany than those lucky enough to live and grow in the Fraser Valley.
“When the whole thing started, it was all about getting this discussion going: about the local products, what’s available out there, how lucky we are, the passion that people have,” Adrian explains. “And then eventually creating a Fraser Valley food scene that involved the restaurants, the farmers and the producers.”
For all lovers of local, Seasonal 56 is an imperative destination, regardless of where you are on the map. Further afield than most in an otherwise anonymous, industrial strip mall in Langley, Seasonal 56 follows a local logic entirely of its own, one committed to bigger pictures and small producers.
The locals love it, and that includes the supply side of the equation.
More than 40 such local farmers, producers are handwritten on the chalkboard that welcomes guests, along with a nice summing of the ethos, replete with gratitude:
“We believe that to prepare great food, it is important to begin with great ingredients.
We are proud to support local and sustainable agriculture, as well as responsible animal stewardship and sustainable fishing practices. We would like to thank all of the farmers, ranchers and artisans that make this possible.”
For the past eight years, every ounce of that ethos has been tapped to offer a culinary and catering experience grounded in all things local – never more so directly than what has become a star attraction: their Gumboot Dinners.
For those familiar with the chef’s table experience, the Gumboot Dinners are a step beyond, and bring the farmers, producers and winemakers directly to the table. In many cases, it changes the way people relate to their plates entirely.
Adrian helps Shannon, the consummate hostess, with the introductions and retreats to the kitchen to do what he does best, letting the spotlight fall where he feels it should more often – on the farmers.
“In the end, these are the people putting all the work into it and it’s just treating it with respect: preparing it simply and just letting it speak for itself on the plate,” said Adrian. “If people could just kind of live by that, they would enjoy eating more. It would be an experience: going to the market and talking to the farmers. They’d realize that cooking can be more than just standing behind a stove. It can be a lifestyle, a social thing, a family thing and it’s something that should be enjoyed.”
What this means to the farmer, you need only visit Seasonal 56 to have answered, as they walk through the door more often than at any restaurant imaginable. Walter Bergen of Six Masters Farms sat down to share conversation, cake and plenty of compliments for the house during our visit for this issue of Indulge.
“A chef like Adrian and – Adrian himself – is absolutely vital to a farmer like myself trying to practise traditional, artisan husbandry methods. For Adrian to respect and honour that and then use it like he does is tremendous. It’s vital,” Bergen said. “It’s my job to grow food it with great integrity.
It’s Adrian’s job to then plumb the depth and breadth of that integrity and the restaurantgoer experiences it as a remarkably satisfying flavour and food experience.”
It is an experience that changes each time a farmer walks through the door. As a result, the menu rarely remains grounded by anything more than ethos and excellence.
“When we started eight years ago, we decided to do it our way. Some people have a hard time finding us, others accepting a menu that changes the way ours does, but this is what works best for the relationships we have,” said Adrian.
“A lot of the time, I have no idea what is coming through the door until the farmer arrives, but that’s a big part of the experience here. There’s no middle man with our farmers.”
The consistency is where it matters: in the experience. What Seasonal 56 offers is as much narrative as nourishment, something more than a meal: a reconnection to what, and how much, eating local really means.
“What we really believe in and what I hope other people would do is get to know your farmers,” said Adrian. “That’s what it’s all about for us: knowing the people that grow the food, finding out the stories behind it and letting them grow what they grow best.”
For those seeking the ultimate in authenticity, try following all of the producers to source if you’re in the neighbourhood – or substitute accordingly from market. If you know a farmer, extend an invitation.
Better yet, make a date with any number of them at the next Gumboot Dinner on Oct. 24. If you are wondering what’s on the menu, rest assured, nobody’s more excited to know than Adrian.
Can you imagine a nicer alternative to another rant-filled, restaurant makeover?