Imagine having an entire farm at your disposal to create delicious dishes.
That’s Lianna Tedesco’s reality these days. The 24-year old Patchogue native is the new chef at Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market in Riverhead.
“I love the farms out here,” she said. “I was really interested in this job because of the farm-to-table aspect. I’ve always believed that local farming is the way to go and if your community has it, you should support it.”
Ms. Tedesco, who now lives in Mastic, comes from a culinary background. Her uncle worked as a chef for several restaurants in New York City and Long Island and her mother does the baking for Garden of Eve.
“I got my start at a young age,” she said. “I studied culinary arts in high school and spent a summer at the Culinary Institute of Virginia, then moved back to Long Island.”
Ms. Tedesco also studied culinary arts and restaurant management at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead. After that, she worked at Artisan’s Eatery in Islip, starting as a dishwasher and working her way up to sous chef. Then the Garden of Eve position opened up. Having spent her childhood summers on the South Fork, she knew it would be a natural fit for her.
“I was really excited when Garden of Eve had an opening, because it gave me the chance to work with farm-to-table ingredients,” Ms. Tedesco said.
Many ingredients for the café’s dishes come from the farm, including fruits and vegetables, and eggs from its chickens. Beef for the café’s sliders come from upstate farms like Arcadian Pastures in Sloansville, which specializes in grass-fed beef. Other items like milk, cheese and breads are sourced from local purveyors.
“The honey is local, our bread we get from Blue Duck Bakery; it’s certified fresh when it comes in,” Ms. Tedesco said. “It’s not all certified organic, but it’s local.”
She finds that the biggest challenge in cooking at an organic farm café is preparing dressings for the salads — like the garden salad, the Granny Smith grilled chicken salad and the roasted beet salad.
“We make the dressings and vinaigrettes from scratch, our ranch dressing is organic yogurt, so there’s a sell-by date,” Ms. Tedesco said.
“Everything is so fresh that you really need to use it all in time.”
Eve’s egg and cheese sandwich — with cheddar cheese, spring greens and pesto mayonnaise on brioche — is a big seller. But the summer melt, made with antibiotic-free turkey, cheddar, slaw and cranberry mayonnaise on whole wheat bread is their most popular lunch item.
Other new menu items include organic doughnuts and breakfast tarts.
Garden of Eve owner Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht explained why Ms. Tedesco was the best person for the job.
“She’s creative and understands the importance of using the farm produce,” she said. “She’s been able to incorporate a lot of that into the recipes.”
“A few weeks ago we did an Asian noodle salad. We had leftover peas, carrots and broccoli that I blanched and it was really good,” Ms. Tedesco said. “Last week we made a spinach pesto because we had a lot of spinach left over. We figure out what to do with it and come up with a dish.”
Ms. Tedesco enjoys the challenge of devising a menu based on what’s growing on the farm.
“Strawberry season just ended, so we have a ton of strawberries that we’re going to be throwing into muffins,” she said. “That’s really my favorite part of the job, the creativity, because you don’t get that in a lot of places.”
The café at Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market is open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.