Executive Chef Rodney Tallada is implementing sustainable practices in his new position at The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort.
New Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort Executive Chef Rodney Tallada is promoting sustainability at the Shawnee on Delaware, Pa., property, the Pocono Record reported.
Tallada never attended culinary school after high school, but refined his skills at upscale golf resorts in South Carolina. While working in Myrtle Beach, Tallada met with commercial fisherman and “picked things right off their boats,” he recalled. “It was a new thing for me and so refreshing; you couldn’t get fish any fresher than that.”
Then he headed to a Bristol, Va., resort, where he first applied the farm-to-table philosophy of serving the freshest, locally grown produce, some of it coming from his own 1.5-acre garden and orchard, the Record reported.
“We got a farmer on board and quadrupled the size of the garden to 70 to 80 percent sustainability. Before that, it was 0 to 20 percent,” Tallada said. “That inspired me, because there were not many farms while I was in South Carolina to do something like that.”
He sourced as much as he could from a farmers market. “It was fun for me and more of a challenge—creating dishes with what was fresh and in-hand,” he said. “It was just using stuff available and making relationships with local people. It was a pleasant surprise to see how many people and members supported it.”
He remembers growing up when his family would ride to local farms to buy freshly picked fruits and vegetables, or pick apples and corn, the Record reported.
“We never had frozen vegetables,” Tallada said. “We’d always go down to a produce stand, because it’s better. We’d get corn at Bush’s (in Brodheadsville) because they’d have the best corn, and you’d better get apples at Heckman’s because they have the best apples. Maybe that’s why it’s ingrained in me. And everybody had a garden and knew their local farmers.
“We loved it as kids picking corn, which was a fun thing to do. It’s good, quality family time, and you’re educating children about that early to create good habits for the rest of their lives and making memories.”
Nowadays, Tallada heartily advocates the farm to table sustainable initiative of growing and buying local produce, offering a fresher dining experience and supporting neighbors. That includes serving fruit and vegetables grown on the Great Shawna Island Farms at Shawnee Inn and embracing ShawneeCraft beer brewed next door, the Record reported.
Shawnee Inn has been tilling its own 25,000-sq. ft. organic farm since 2010. Tallada has been expanding the scope of its garden that has been utilized for the past four years, adding rare varieties like Purple Panther eggplant and cheddar cauliflower. He acquires beef and chicken from farms outside Lancaster, although finding pork that meets the inn’s standards has been difficult, the Record reported.
As Tallada plans wedding menus, he tries to guide couples “from committing to green beans and basing the menu on what is fresh. So it will be right out of the garden.”
“In interviewing prospective chefs for the position, I found Rodney’s farm to table outlook in line with what we wanted to continue to foster at our resort,” General Manager Rob Howell said. “This is the fourth year for our farm on the golf island, and his passion for using what comes out of the farm is second to none. His passion for craft beer was also a good fit for us, and he has put a heavy reliance on our own ShawneeCraft Beer in his menu items at the (inn’s) River Room. We look forward to positive changes Chef Rodney will bring to the culinary experience at our entire resort.”
For the past four years, Shawnee has developed its Farm to Table dining program, tapping into maple trees and harvesting honey from its own apiary along with its farm produce and brewery, but Tallada said he plans to make greater use of those resources, the Record reported.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to make a culture change here,” said Tallada. “It’s an opportunity to raise awareness. Hopefully people will be receptive to new ideas.”
Tallada said his Shawnee Inn menu is slanted more toward the best of what grows during that season rather than year-round signature selections, the Record reported.
“[Farm to table] is trendy, and when you consider the location and the history here, it’s a natural fit. This can put Shawnee on the map for culinary, not just the amenities,” he said. “We have the opportunity to do great things with all the amenities Shawnee has to offer.”