[CHEF CAMP] Chefs Cheesed It Up at Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese in Kentucky
Prominent chefs from Nashville and Louisville gathered for a day of networking, rest and culinary inspiration at the fourth edition of Eat Y’all Chef Camp.
On October 30, prominent chefs from the Nashville and Louisville markets gathered for the fourth edition of Eat Y’all Chef Camp – a cheesy good time on the dairy farm at Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese in Austin, Kentucky.
In honor of the date the day before Halloween, the entire crew got dressed up like cheesemakers to tour the cheesemaking facility and aging caves at Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese.
Just kidding, these garments are required to prevent any contamination of the cheesemaking process, which requires a very controlled environment to produce the flavor and texture of the various cheeses produced here.
Chefs were definitely eyeing these gems tucked away in the aging caves. Reserve cheeses are aged for years before being released in very limited quantities. Aging gives the cheese a rich depth of flavor that only time can give. Kenny Mattingly and his crew have been making cheese since 1998 on this farm where cows have been milked since 1978.
The well-loved dairy herd are the source of Kenny’s success. Right now, Kenny’s maintains a herd that includes about 116 cows milking as well as cows who are “resting” (not in a milking phase), young calves and the next generation.
Chefs enjoyed tours of the entire operation including the dairy barn (fondly referred to as the “cow spa”) where the cows lounge freely and enjoy robotic milking machines that allow them to be milked on their own schedule. The cows also have access to automatic back scratchers that massage and scratch the cows’ backs as well as misters and fans plus automated feeding robots that keep food easily accessible.
Kenny treated the chefs to a “hayride” around the farm property on the sunny fall day, stopping to show chefs the calf barn, grazing pastures and the creek and wooded areas on the back of the farm.
A natural spring feeds a small creek on the back of the farm property. Chefs enjoyed a walk through the colorful foliage as well as foraging in the wooded area along this creek.
After the walk, everyone collaborated to build – and quickly consume – a variety of cheese and charcuterie boards. Many chefs brought their own accompaniment to share including Chef Duncan Paynter’s “spreadable salami” and Chef Mike Wajda’s kimchi.
This smoked Simmons Catfish spread was a delicious addition to boards! Everyone agreed this was such a uniquely Southern ingredient to put on a meat and cheese board.
The Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese smorgasboard during cheese and charcuterie board-building. Last year, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese produced approximately 140,000 pounds of cheese across 30 varieties of cheese. Their best sellers include White Cheddar, Fresh Cheese Curds, Fromage Blanc, and Kentucky Rose.
A special thanks to Creation Gardens for providing a terrific variety of meats that were enjoyed along with other ingredients for our supper buffet.
Andrew Noye from Blackberry Farm Brewery shared the story of their brewery and offered beer and food pairing advice with an emphasis on how to best pair cheese and beers, before offering plenty of tastings.
It wouldn’t be an Eat Y’all Chef Camp without plenty of rough and tumble outdoor activities including skeet shooting and target practice.
We also enjoyed meeting the guys from Flying Axes from Louisville and learning about how to throw axes – the hottest new activity taking the U.S. by storm. They were so generous to come set up their new mobile unit on the farm for the afternoon and let everyone enjoy some sharp competition! Thank you, Flying Axes!
One of the Flying Axes founders, Patrick Hallahan, drummer for My Morning Jacket and Louisville restaurateur, joined us as a special guest for the afternoon. He’s shown here showing approval for Blackberry Farm Brewery’s flagship brew, Classic Saison.
Graham Shrimp Co. from Bayou la Batre, Alabama, sent these gorgeous tail on shrimp for the grill. Chef Josh Poling from Home Cafe in Bowling Green, Kentucky, generously manned the grill all afternoon and cooked these shrimp to absolute perfection. They were tender and sweet as a topping for his andouille gumbo. Most of us couldn’t quit eating them straight off the grill!
Juicy burgers by the campfire finished our day off right, thanks to Southern Natural Farms.
As the sun set over this beautiful Kentucky farm, the flatbed trailer from the earlier hayride was the perfect buffet table for our fireside supper. Juicy Southern Natural Farms burgers on Brioche buns with toppings that ranged from yellow mustard and ketchup to gourmet onion jam and homemade pickled hatch chiles weighted down our plates. Warm bowls of Chef Josh’s andouille gumbo over Two Brooks Farm rice topped with Graham shrimp warmed up the chilly evening. Individually packaged desserts including gourmet smores with themes like PB&J S’mores generously provided by pastry chef attendee, Laura Fieberg from Provence Breads & Cafe in Nashville made a sweet ending to the evening.
With to-go plates piled high and goodie bags filled to the brim with product samples and gadgets, the day “campers” departed Kenny’s enriched and invigorated.
Many thanks to Kenny and Beverly Mattingly, Van, Jeanette and the entire team at Mattingly Farms and Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese for hosting this edition of Eat Y’all Chef Camp! We couldn’t have done it without the support of our partners at Southeastern United Dairy Industry Association, Graham Shrimp Co., Two Brooks Farm and Simmons Catfish. We’re also grateful for donations of time, products and entertainment from Flying Axes, Blackberry Farm Brewery, Southern Natural Farms and What Chefs Want (Creation Gardens). Y’all are all amazing, and we’re so honored to partner with each and every one of you!
>> Are you a professional chef serving at an independently owned and operated restaurant or similar establishment? Would you benefit – and contribute – to a day of networking, rest and culinary inspiration with your peers at an upcoming Eat Y’all Chef Camp? Please contact us to be added to our 2018 Eat Y’all Chef Camp Waitlist with locations around the southern U.S. Invitations and dates will be released soon.