This past Sunday, myself and the other members of the “Before The Plate” crew had our biggest shoot yet. From 6 a.m. to well into the afternoon, a crew of about 15 were capturing some spectacular shots of cooking at the highest level.
Canoe, the restaurant featured in “Before The Plate,” is one of Canada’s most highly regarded restaurants, and the staff there did not disappoint. True to our name, we will be taking a single plate of food from Canoe and following each ingredient back to the farms they came from.
Chef John Horne and his team pulled all the ingredients together to make one amazing plate. At the end, we had one beef tenderloin with fried tater tots, tomato and celery relish, honey glazed carrots, crispy onions, and bread sauce that used flour, buttermilk, and sunflower oil. Each of these ingredients were from farms we have visited and filmed over the course of the project.
This shoot had some pretty surreal feelings that came along with it. Day 21 of 27 of the project, it is clear this journey is drawing to a close. Going around the province meeting some spectacular people and seeing dozens of different operations is something I will not soon forget. Also, the fact that canoe is 54 floors above the city of Toronto, in the heart of the financial district, gave the distinct feeling that we had made it. We are taking the farmer’s message to the city. We could essentially see the entire demographic this project is trying to reach out the windows of the restaurant. And to top it all off, the finished plate was set down in front of us for the first time with each ingredient on it. I immediately starting seeing each farmer and their stories in the dish as the memories of each shoot day came back to me. My goal is to bring that overwhelming feeling of togetherness to the people in the city who never get to see where their food comes from.
At the end of the day, that is all most urban consumers want. They want to understand what is going on. Nine times out of 10, they are not out to get anyone, they just want to know and they don’t feel they have been granted that decency in the past. There is no doubt that there is a movement started from the fringe of radical anti-corporate ag activists, but that’s not who the information battle is with. It is with everyday people who are trying to feed their family the best way they know how and feel as if something has been “hidden” from them.
Farming is not easy and, more importantly, not easy to understand. As someone who grew up in the city and only entered the farming space a few years ago, I can make that statement with certainty. The issue is, for people who think like I used to, that it seems like it should be easy. Plant some seeds, wait a couple months, and harvest them. Just like that! The issue is, as a society we don’t even understand the complexity of what goes into feeding a growing population, and most people feel they know best, without ever talking to a farmer.
Our movie isn’t going to be a “pro-GMO” movie (although we stress their importance and safety), and it definitely won’t be the typical “undercover” farming documentary most people are too familiar with. It is a movie about food and, significantly, the people who make it all possible. If we show the journey, we are confident that consumers will be able to make up their own minds about what is best for their family and in that, what is best for the farmer.