Celebrating Local Chefs: Ryan Allen-Parrot of Boundary Breaks Vineyard

Chef Ryan Allen-Parrot brings his passion for fresh, locally sourced products to wine and food lovers at Boundary Breaks Vineyard.
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Chef Ryan Allen-Parrot

Chef Ryan Allen-Parrot grew up in Ithaca, where he attended Cornell University, before moving a couple of times back and forth between his hometown and Northern California. He last worked farming CBD at a private ranch near the Dry Creek and Russian River Valley before returning home with a newfound appreciation for the agricultural renaissance that is occurring here. While working his way up in the kitchen, he learned a lot about flavors and cooking from his network of farmers, foragers, and chefs. He is passionate about teaching others how to directly interact with their foodshed and implements transparency in the preparation and sourcing of the entire menu, listing the farms on the back of Boundary Breaks Vineyard’s menu, and providing full recipes to wine club members.

Edible Finger Lakes: How do you use local and seasonal ingredients in your current work?

We only use local ingredients sourced from quality-driven, small-scale producers. We visit farms to establish personal connections with farmers, and the agricultural ecosystem in order to ensure the biome is treated well. If we cannot find an ingredient locally, this stimulates my creativity and curiosity. My Sous Chef Gideon Casper and I ask, “How can we make this recipe with other ingredients,” and if we cannot, we abandon that recipe. We supplement the local abundance of this region with microgreens, herbs, and flowers which we cultivate ourselves indoors in the winter, and outdoors during the growing season. We spend time foraging on our days off. Locally sourcing provides the constraint that stimulates our creative processes. Of course, the most hyperlocal ingredient is Boundary Breaks wine, which we use in almost every recipe. When we find a truly phenomenal local flavor, we build an entire dish around it.

EFL: Describe a favorite dish you created or love to cook.

One dish I love to cook is the sourdough crepe, which I fill with different ingredients each week. We introduced this menu item at Boundary Breaks on Easter, filled with Autumn’s Harvest ham, Riesling honey mustard, Riesling caramel glazed carrots, Wellspring Forest Farm Lion’s Mane, and King Oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Dancing Turtle Pea Shoots. Most recently, we filled it with Autumn’s Harvest pork shoulder, cured with Maple and Riesling, and smoked with riesling grapevine smoke, purple cabbage slaw with carrots, shallots, chives, and apple cider vinegar, horseradish apple chutney, and smoked ramps. It can be filled with anything, sweet or savory. We adapted Sandor Katz’s sourdough frontier flapjacks, from Wild Fermentation. I have re-written the recipe to use the byproducts of other recipes, Wellspring Forest Farm duck egg whites, Ithaca Milk Jersey yogurt whey, and Ronata Stapel’s sourdough starter, thereby eliminating waste.

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

For most of the last decade, I lived in the North Bay area of northern California, one of the most agriculturally productive and quality-driven foodsheds in the world. This is when I became aware of the concept of farm-to-table. It is rare to find a restaurant that truly adheres to the lofty ideals of local and seasonal. In the Finger Lakes, however, a robust network of small farmers collaborate and cross-promote. Food distributors like Headwater Food Hub and Finger Lakes Farms expand consumer and commercial access to phenomenal ingredients and offer home delivery. We apply the permaculture principle of waste as a resource in order to improve flavor and relationships with farmers. This year, for example, Autumn’s Harvest Farm will finish their pork on the pressed grape skins and seeds, imparting tremendous flavor complexity to the meat just prior to slaughter. I call this bioaccumulation of terroir, rather than toxins as is the case with factory-farmed foods.

EFL: What do you love most about your job?

I love teaching and learning, which are reciprocal, iterative processes. Insights derived from farming and kitchen experimentation should be shared up and down the supply chain. It is my goal that people who visit the winery do not think, “I could never make something taste that good,” but rather ask the question, “how did you do this?” I like to be transparent, so we print the name of every producer on the back of our menu, empowering consumers to find phenomenal ingredients themselves. Beginning next month, we will make all of our recipes available to Boundary Breaks wine club members so they can get creative with their food at home.

EFL: What local food producers do you work with for your menus?

Our local, artisanal farm sources, listed in order of distance from the Boundary Breaks Winery:

-Six Circles Farm, Lodi (6 miles)
-Juneberry Farm, Willard (6 miles)
-Ithaca Milk, Interlaken, (9 miles)
-Parrot Family Farm, Hector (10 miles)
-Lively Run Goat Dairy, Interlaken (10 miles)
-Waid’s Apiary, Interlaken (10 miles)
-Finger Lakes Cider House, Interlaken (11 miles)
-Black Duck Cidery, Ovid (14 miles)
-Autumn’s Harvest, Romulus (14 miles)
-Remembrance Farm, Trumansburg (15 miles)
-Farmer Ground Flour, Trumansburg (21 miles)
-Brown Earth Garden, Danby (21 miles)
-Stick and Stone Farm, Trumansburg (21 miles)
-Wellspring Forest Farm, Trumansburg (22 miles)
-Finger Lakes Harvest, Geneva (24 miles)
-Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods, Geneva (26 miles)
-Hillside Farm, Ithaca (28 miles)
-Schoolyard Sugarbush Maple, Newfield (32 miles)
-Hillberry Farm, Berkshire (39 miles)
-Hillcrest Dairy, Moravia (48 miles)
-Queensboro Farm, Canastota (83 miles)
-Fruit of the Fungi, Lebanon (87 miles)
-Susquehanna Mills, Muncy (130 miles)
-Piacentino Farms, Deerfield (222 miles 

EDF: Where have you worked in the past?

I first worked at Marin Sun Farms, a vertically integrated farm, slaughterhouse, butcher’s shop, and restaurant in Marin County, CA. I have also worked in Steamboat Springs, CO where I trained with chefs Joe Campbell and Colin Nicoletti and subsequently opened a farm-to-table restaurant called Yampa Valley Kitchen under Campbell as a sous chef. Locally, I have worked at Daño’s Heuriger on Seneca.

EDL: Why do you think using local and seasonal ingredients is important?

It’s a no-brainer. The flavors that are available each season are complimentary. Furthermore, short supply chains enable fresh harvesting, vine-ripening, and same-day consumption. This maximizes nutritional and culinary value while minimizing full life-cycle costs. How can you trust a product that came from a facility you’ve never seen? Furthermore, it is the very interconnectedness of the global supply chains and concentrated animal feedlot operations which have created the conditions in which novel pandemic viruses can breed and spread. During World War II, home gardening was considered patriotic and the government promoted propaganda to encourage it. During the recent pandemic, people rely on food distributors that deliver directly to consumers, thereby avoiding grocery stores and restaurants. They could just as easily grow their own or visit local farms, reducing the interconnectedness of global supply chains, improving the health of humans, and the planet.

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

Summer is coming! It’s time to get your garden started! Plan your garden, order seeds, and plant them according to the length of time it takes for them to mature, with respect to the last frost date and the heat and cold tolerance of each crop. Rather than buying your favorite fruits and vegetables from the store, try growing your own or foraging while you’re out on a hike. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Use recipes as guidelines but don’t run out to the store if you don’t have an ingredient or two. Improvise, and you will learn every time you cook.

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

Summer is coming! It’s time to get your garden started! Plan your garden, order seeds, and plant them according to the length of time it takes for them to mature, with respect to the last frost date and the heat and cold tolerance of each crop. Rather than buying your favorite fruits and vegetables from the store, try growing your own or foraging while you’re out on a hike. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Use recipes as guidelines but don’t run out to the store if you don’t have an ingredient or two. Improvise, and you will learn every time you cook.

EFL: What’s a favorite cooking technique?

I love fermenting fruits and vegetables with Lactobacillus bacteria and wild cultures. Since I love raw foods, my favorite cooking techniques preserve the nutritional and textural properties of food while enhancing flavor. Kimchi, kraut, pickles, fermented fruit, sour beers are all driven by flavors imparted by bacteria and yeast which are not present in the ingredients from which they are made. It is the salt and the metabolic action of microorganisms that cook the food. By partnering with microorganisms, we can create magic. Anyone interested in learning more about these techniques should read The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz or The Noma Guide to Fermentation, by René Redzepi and David Zilber.

Boundary Breaks Vineyard, 1568 Porter Covert Rd, Lodi, NY 14860 –  (607) 474-5030

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