Celebrating Local Chefs: Justin Paterson of Hazelnut Kitchen

Photo by Jason Koski

Chef Justin Paterson is the co-owner of Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg. He runs the farm-to-table eatery with Lisa Jonckheere. The two met while working at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Hazelnut has become known for offering delicious dishes with seasonal ingredients that support local farmers—in meal kits to cook at home safely during the pandemic. We hope you enjoy Justin’s responses to our local chef frequently asked questions!

EFL: When did you first become interested in farm-to-table cooking?

JP: I’ve always been interested in farm-to-table cooking but when I had the opportunity to open my own restaurant, it was important to re-locate to an area where I could meet the farmers, see the farmers and be a part of the agriculture community not just getting their products from a big truck hundreds of miles away.   

EFL: How does where you work now utilize local and seasonal ingredients?

JP: Almost everything we do is local.  We are fortunate to have the flexibility to change our menu when the farmers run out of a certain product.  It keeps things creative and ever changing.   

EFL: Could you please name a few local food producers you work with now or have worked with in the past?

JP: We work with so many amazing local farms: Autumn’s Harvest, Black Diamond Farm, Blue Heron Farm, Meadow Farm, Lively Run Dairy, Plowbreak Farm, Remembrance Farm, Silver Queen, Six Circle Farm, Stick & Stone, Sweetland farm and so many more.

EFL: Why do you think utilizing local and seasonal ingredients grown and produced in the Finger Lakes is important?

JP: Now more than ever it’s about supporting your community.  (and you get the added freshness of the product!) 

EFL: What’s on the top of your mind right now?

JP: Ramps . . . . where are you???  Jack Frost . . . stay away from the buds!  April is the hardest month where the farmers are running out of root vegetables and spring seems to take forever.  It’s time to get creative with meat options.   

EFL: Could you please describe a recent memorable experience related to cooking?

JP: We have an incredible working relationship with Michael Mazourek, a seed breeder from Row 7 Seeds and Aaron Munzer and Kara Cusolito, farmers at Plowbreak Farm. This collaboration of breeder, farmer and chef helps us learn about vegetables and how to grow them to be more flavorful. We have created an entire dish from just one vegetable. It’s unbelievable to be a part of this process and see how it keeps getting better and better.

EFL: Could you please describe to us your favorite creation?

JP: The longest menu title ever: Plowbreak Farm grown Row 7 7082 Cucumber.  We pickled, grilled, raw, and pureed everything from the cucumber into an incredible salad.   

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