Chef Jeff Kraus Cooks Steadfast Farm "Smokey" Little Gem Salad
As photographer Debby Wolvos has traveled the state, she has had the privilege of meeting and getting to know the people behind our local food community—be they farmers, ranchers, bakers, artisan food producers or chefs. This photo series explores the relationships, inspirations and ingredients from these producers.
The third entry in this series features Chef Jeff Kraus from the Crêpe Bar in Tempe. His dish is the “Smokey” Little Gem Salad. Farmer Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm in Queen Creek has been providing produce for Chef Jeff since the restaurant opened in 2012. He says that Erich’s organic root vegetables are fantastic, and he calls Erich’s loose-leaf and salad greens “next level wonderful.”
I met with Jeff and Erich at Steadfast Farm recently, and found the two men digging in the soil and having a wonderful time. It was inspiring to photograph them, as they are so close they seem like brothers.
DEBBY WOLVOS: Your innovative crêpes are sweet and savory works of art. And those unique salads! Tell us about using fresh produce that’s sourced locally.
JEFF KRAUS: Using fresh and organic products is important because it allows us to focus more on what we do best: create flavors, cook and entertain our diners. Farmers like Erich are conscious of things like weather, soil and what crops are the best for the environment. This is the kind of synergy that helps build a much stronger and sustainable food culture.
DW: How has collaborating with Erich Schultz impacted your life?
JK: Having developed a trustworthy relationship with farmer Erich, I’ve become better at being a mentor, coach, cook and friend. His attention to detail, his hard work to produce the best-quality ingredients and a healthy working culture and the love Erich has for his family (farm staff included) is always inspiring and encouraging.
DW: Any farmer-chef stories or memories you might want to share of the two of you?
JK: Let’s just say farmer Erich has seen me at my best and at my worst and still is friends with me. Compost Angels is all I have to say.
DW: I read that you describe your food (and that salad!) just like you describe yourself: playful, unpredictable and detail-oriented.
JK: Absolutely. The Little Gem Salad features a lettuce that can be dressed and smoked without losing its delicate flavors. You wouldn’t think it’s vegan or even a salad. It’s meaty and full of flavor and texture. Overall, I like the salad because it truly does represent a lot of my cooking style and philosophy.
Our pop-up event for this article will be a multi-course dinner featuring the Little Gems salad and Steadfast Farm produce at Crêpe Bar on June 12. For tickets, see littlegems.eventbrite.com. For information on future events follow Edible Phoenix on Facebook or sign up for our e-newsletter.