Outstanding in the Field: the ultimate dinner outdoors
Outstanding in the Field are a crew of culinary enthusiasts who bring together food purveyors with communities for a memorable dinner in the landscape.
20 April, 2016
Outstanding in the Field are a crew of culinary enthusiasts who bring together food purveyors with communities for a memorable dinner outside in the landscape.
Jim Denevan, a successful chef form northern California, is the mastermind behind the concept of dining with a field. In 1999, he embraced the farm-to-table concept hosting three dinners at local farms in his hometown of Santa Cruz. The dinner parties took off and by 2003 he had hosted eight highly successful events prompting him to leave his restaurant the following year.
He has since then hosted more than 700 dinner parties in all 50 US states and a total of nine countries (unfortunately not in Australia, yet!). For Denevan, it’s not about celebrating the skills of the chef, it’s about celebrating the farmer and their produce.
“We had this idea from the beginning,“ Denevan tells GQ Magazine, “that the farmer should be the star, that the chef should be of secondary importance. It needed to be done. The chef was rising in stature as a culturally significant figure, and the farmer really wasn’t talked about.
Maybe that happened because people didn’t see farming as a creative pursuit. But I would argue that it is. Have you ever heard a farmer discuss his crops? Why he chooses to grow acidic peaches instead of white ones? Why one year he chooses to plant a special green Romans like to eat with anchovies? All these choices are stories created by passion, and story is the substance of food.”
Every dinner party Outstanding in the Field host is unique. They pop up for a short period of time where hundreds reveal in the atmosphere enjoying delicious freshly cooked local produce. Then they’ll vanish, leaving the farm to return back to norm.
“I like the idea of coming to a farm where there’s no table,“ Denevan says. “It’s a patch of land that just happens not to have plants in it at the time. It could be zucchini in three weeks. Or a few weeks before, it could have been something else. But at the moment, there’s room to put a table there. The whole field is a constantly changing composition. It’s not just the table that’s transitory.“
From an Alaskan farm, to a California secret sea cave, to an urban garden in the city of Manhattan, Outstanding in the Field’s events are something to marvel. Communal tables stretch across the chosen landscape, guests arrive with plates in their hand (a nod to the tradition of everyone bringing something to a dinner party) and the smells of food linger in the air. All this together with flowing wine and a spectacular setting – vital ingredients needed for a perfect summer evening outdoors.
This year’s spring/summer season of farm-to-table events have begun with a flurry as the Outstanding in the Field’s dinners seem more popular than ever. The intimate experience outdoor has been reconnecting diners worldwide with the land, makers and chefs; clearly the farm-to-table the movement shows no signs of slowing down.
“A lot of people ask if I’m sad when the ocean or wind washes away my work,” he says. “It’s like a meal, you create it to be enjoyed in the moment, not to last forever.”
Heading to the US, Canada or Japan any time soon and fancy an incredible dinner surrounded by apple trees, grapes or coast? Visit Outstanding in the Field for a list of their upcoming events.