Cliffs Living: Field Studies

The Cliffs serves up farm-to-table fare.

The seeds of the farm-to-table movement were just beginning to sprout in the Upstate when Chef Kevin Furmanek took his first job at The Cliffs in 2006.

Now serving as executive chef at The Cliffs at Mountain Park, he still ascribes to the principle that fresh, local ingredients make the best eating.

“While the idea of farm-to-table cuisine is not new, I think everyone likes to know where their food comes from,” says the New Jersey native. “They like to know that it’s not grown with pesticides, and that it’s farmed correctly and it’s high quality.”

As a chef grounded in French technique, Furmanek seeks out unusual varieties when buying vegetables and herbs. And for those he looks to small, local farms.

“The small farmers are buying the right seeds and they’re buying heirlooms,” he explains. “I’m a big fan of heirloom varieties [of vegetables], which are much more flavorful than any of the modified

Chefs across the board in The Cliffs are tuning into the ingredients that they’re buying, echoing South Street Partners’ efforts to enhance the overall member experience. At The Cliffs at Mountain Park, members appreciate variety, so the culinary team offers a core menu, along with features that can be changed daily, depending on what’s available and in season. Think harissa-marinated Hickory Nut Gap beef top sirloin kabobs with Stage 22 Farm by Hotel Domestique grilled eggplant and fire-roasted Lyda Farms spaghetti squash.

“Our members are ecstatic about the seasonal menus,” Furmanek shares. “They know when they come here that they’re going to get the best quality product on their plate, and it’s going to be new and creative, and cooked to their liking.”

The creation of menus at The Cabin at Mountain Park starts with proteins, perhaps from Southern Berkshire Farm and Hickory Nut Gap, then adds vegetables from Upstate producers such as Stage 22 Farm by Hotel Domestique, and tosses in local artisanal products like cheeses produced by Blue Ridge Creamery and Split Creek Farm. Furmanek also sources ingredients from Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery in Greenville, which serves as a food hub for area farmers and chefs.

“With Swamp Rabbit as a hub, we can easily see what products are available around the area and not just in the Upstate,” he explains.

Several special farm-to-table events highlight the culinary calendar at The Cabin. For these, Furmanek and his team coordinate with local farmers to reap the cream of their crops. Case in point is the annual fall oyster roast, where farmers set up tables at The Cabin so members can meet the folks who produce their food, see their products, and then taste them in the featured dishes. The chef has also teamed up with local breweries in spring to pair craft beer with seasonal delights such as morels, asparagus, and strawberries.

Furmanek’s goal is to ensure that he is not just putting food on a plate to serve people. “We’re cautious of what’s growing and what’s healthy and sustainable in farming practices,” he says. “I enjoy going into the walk-in, seeing what we’ve purchased for the week, and figuring out what we can put together with what we have.”

The chef and his wife, who studied horticulture at Clemson University, have their own garden at home, where they grow a cornucopia of crops including garlic, basil, cabbage, kale, cucumbers, eggplant, and tomatoes. So, it’s no surprise that Furmanek’s philosophy of cooking hits all the high points of the farm-to-table ethos: “Use what’s around you. Don’t travel far for it, and use the best quality of whatever ingredient you get.”

It all boils down, as he puts it, to “cooking from your heart.”

“Our members are ecstatic about the seasonal menus. They know when they come here that they’re going to get the best quality product on their plate, and it’s going to be new and creative, and cooked to their liking.” — KEVIN FURMANEK, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE CLIFFS AT MOUNTAIN PARK

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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