I started this crazy venture of “food blogging” late last fall, which you can read more about HERE. Jeff, my amazingly supportive and incredibly patient husband, gave me the push that I really needed to get it going, asking me “what are you waiting for? You’ve been talking about doing this for YEARS”. So I did it. After countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears (quite literally, I assure you) I got my first rounds of content together and I did it. I launched Cook.Eat.Explore.
Cook.Eat.Explore runs in tandem with k.H.a. Lifestyle Photography, which is the lifestyle (duh) portrait, and wedding side of my photography life. Apparently I am as crazy as people think I am, to try and start a second business while relocating k.H.a. to a city and state in which I knew no one. Cause lemme tell ya, contrary to what most people think and believe, the business of photography, when done legally, properly licensed, insured, and done well, is hard. Smashing your head against a brick wall, arguing with a three year old, trying to herd cats kind of hard, but oh my is it ever worth it, and believe me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s not the pick-up-a-camera-push-a-button-anyone-can-do-it business that some seem to think. And I FUCKING LOVE IT. When I launched Cook.Eat.Explore, I knew that it was a way to marry together my love of the art of cooking and plating, entertaining, wine pairing, photography, & passion for learning and shining light on other peoples stories.
I may not do ANYTHING in the traditional sense, and that’s just fine. This is who I am.
I bit the bullet so to speak, and asked the then owners (the business has since changed hands) of Two Brothers Butcher Shoppe down in North Market to sit down with me so I could share thier story. They said yes, and I almost fell over.
From there, I sat down with Charlie Payne, the farming phenom behind Covey Rise Farms, and then with Jamie Anderson & Jess Collins of Anderson Farms & Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, Bill Glover, the head chef of Gallerie (the restaurant and bar down at the Hilton), and TJ Gibbs of Paulie G’s Pizza in the Short North.
Things took off far faster than I had ever imagined, and I’ve struggled with how I want to bring these stories to print for y’all to read, to learn more about them, and why they’re passionate about what they do.
I’ve started writing each of their features more than once.
Each time, I’ve gone back and trashed all of it. Since January, I’ve been told that I’m not a real blogger, that I’m not a real food blogger, that I’m playing at it, and so on. Admittedly, that did get under my skin a bit more than it should have, and it did shake my confidence a bit. What I realized from that is this, and it’s what I should have said from the first moment I heard any of that.
I may not be a food blogger in the traditional sense, I may not do ANYTHING in the traditional sense, and that’s just fine. This is who I am. I mentally smacked myself in the back of the head, shrugged off the weight of others judge-y (ahem, jealous) words, and am back to embracing being me, in all my frenetic take on the world energy.
And here’s the thing, I’m going to do it all. This is what I am passionate about, what I’m good at, and so without further ado, I bring you Jamie Anderson & Jess Collins.
Anderson Farms + Ray Rays Hog Pit
When I asked Justin Schuman who his culinary hero’s were, I had barely gotten the question all the way out when the name Jaime Anderson came out of his mouth. (He did say Charlie’s name as well, which you can read more about here) Justin told me that in his eyes, Jamie (who also goes by James, but as I first heard it as Jamie, I can’t seem to shake it) is a culinary rockstar. I was intrigued.
I asked if I could mention Justin’s name when reaching out to this man who was held in such high esteem and the answer was a resounding yes. As we talked further, I found out that not only is Jamie Justin’s culinary hero, but that of a fair amount of Columbus’ as well. He’s graced the cover of more than one magazine, had countless articles and interviews published, and reaching out was what I considered at the time to be a major shot in the dark.
Why would someone who’s had such amazing press coverage take the time out of thier busy life to sit down with me, a budding blogger? Chalk another one up to you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. (Thank you Mr. Gretzky, that has become a guiding principle of my professional life).
He and his wife Jess invited me out to thier farm in Granville to sit down and talk food.
It must be noted that when sitting down to talk with people whom I know have had serious press coverage, or any for that matter, I don’t read a word of it prior. This has nothing to do with not doing my homework, but rather I don’t want to go into any conversation with ANY preconceived notions.
I am in a really unique position, being still so new to Columbus, and while I may recognize names, it’s just that. A glimmer of recognition and nothing more. I get to go sit down, tabula rasa so to speak, when meeting and “interviewing” people. (like I said earlier, I don’t do anything the traditional way) As such, I lead with that, that while I know that these folks are big dogs of the Columbus food scene, I want to talk and connect foodie to foodie, no hero worship, no preconceived notions, no ego.
I parked, hitched myself up by my mental bootstraps (and that day, literally, thank God for Hunters), and knocked on the door.
The day that I drove out to Anderson Farms, it was cloudy, drizzling off and on, and while not cold, definitely still shy of spring. The rolling hills of Granville were a welcome change from the flat of Columbus, and I was again in awe of how beautiful Ohio is.
Following directions from Siri (cause let’s be real, I still rely pretty heavily on GPS to get around) I pulled in, trying to soak it all in. The farm house hugs the road, with the rest of the farm acreage rolling away behind it. The drive curves around the house, spilling out into what has become a parking area to the right, barn yard to the left.
I parked, hitched myself up by my mental bootstraps (and that day, literally, thank God for Hunters), and knocked on the door.
Jamie answered, shook me hand, and immediately put me at ease. We wove back through the farm house kitchen into the office, which houses both of thier desks, a wall of windows with a french door that opens onto a small landing with it’s own path out the yard, an open space filled for the littles to play, and a round table that in my mind evokes thoughts of the kitchen I grew up in.
While there are framed articles on the wall, the various features that have been done and GORGEOUS portraiture by other photographers to accompany those articles, the room exudes warmth. We sat down, dug into lunch, and got to it.
James got his start in a German restaurant, and starting as a dishwasher, worked his way through all posts, both the front and back of the house (save bartender) and spent 16 years there. The world of professional cooking is unlike any other. It is absolutely not for the faint of heart, and is essentially an HR rep’s nightmare, for those of us crazy enough to love it, it’s perfect. (For a better, far more eloquent telling of it, read Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential)
Ask anyone who has cooked, or does cook for living. You never forget the kitchen you came up in, and for Jamie, that remains true. “That job that I had, even though it was 20 years ago, I still dream, often, about how much fun it was it to work in that kitchen. It’s where I learned how to cook, I grew up in there.” All of James’ kiddos grew up cooking too, starting around age seven, everyone is in the kitchen in some capacity, be it cooking withe James and Jess at home, working the truck at Ray Ray’s, or working the line in other kitchens around the city.
“That job that I had, even though it was 20 years ago, I still dream, often, about how much fun it was it to work in that kitchen. It’s where I learned how to cook, I grew up in there.”
As for cooking at home, it’s all about family. Everyone cooks together. Jess cooks some days, Jamie other. They tend to split it up, due more to who’s day it is to make time around the edges of running multiple business for cooking, rather than not being able to cook together.
From there, he took a more meandering path, through professional photography, doing commercial and large format billboard work, and looped back to starting Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. (which, by the way, HOLY CRAP. Easily the best BBQ in the city, and watch for the upcoming post about Ray Rays)
We serve authentic, purist style smoked meats cooked with hickory and oak hardwoods. We process most of our own wood from our own forests, and we use a specific set of standards to get the most flavor in the smoke to transfer into the meat. We use the freshest meats we can find, and some of them are coming directly from the farms where the animals were raised. Our homemade sauces are mostly served on the side so you can see our bright pink smoke ring, just to ensure that what you are eating is the real thing. We use a dry rub process before the meat is put in the smoker, then we let it go 12-16 hours LOW AND SLOW, and depending on the meat it may get a light second coating of seasonings when it comes out of the cooker.
We serve our Barbecue every weekend (rain or shine) from our food truck next to Ace of Cups Bar. We offer large pre-orders of meat/sides by the pound, or full service catering for any occasion from a backyard BBQ to a black tie affair. -Rayrayshogpit.com
Pro Chef to Hog Farmer
Sourcing local ingredients and sustainably farming them is a passion for both Jamie and Jess, and the focus of Anderson Farms is as follows.
All of our animals are raised naturally with plenty of fresh air and open pastures. We don’t confine our animals inside and that results in a happier and healthier animal. We do our best to source non-gmo feed and we don’t use any growth hormones and minimal antibiotics and they are not denied proper medical care if they are ill. The animals are treated humanely and with respect. They live in family groups whenever appropriate and we never use any electric prods for wrangling. We let them roam free just like nature intended in a safe clean environment. We like for our animals to live a happy life in family groups closest to what their natural habitat would have been when ever possible. It is a humane, loving environment & it is the right thing to do. One thing that we do a little differently in our pasture is we monitor the ground closely. Our goal is to keep the animals on clean, dry and grassy grounds – instead of mud and dirt. We really want the animals to graze the greens for healthier life and tastier meats. We also raise only heritage breed pigs to get good marbling and deep coloring. The commercial industry really tries to eliminate the marbling and they breed the fat out of their hogs to make them leaner for higher profits. We are raising meat like it used to be long time ago to produce a deep color, rich flavoring with plenty of marbling. -andersonfarms.com/our-farming-practice
I asked what had brought them to farming, why go from running what is arguably the best BBQ joint in the city, just ask Esquire. (see what I mean about the big name press coverage?) to hog farming.
The answer was simple.
They weren’t able to find the level and quality of meat that they wanted to use and serve at Ray Ray’s. So rather than compromise, they decided to do it themselves. A year was spent studying. Researching breeds of hogs, farming practices, what worked, what didn’t, the why behind all of it. Learning from others who’ve been successful, and also learning from those who weren’t.
At the end of that year of study (all while running other business, mind you) it was time. They were ready.
Anderson Farms was born.
We studied for a year to find the most unique flavorful breads in the world, found out what we wanted, and got them.
Growing up, my exposure to farming was limited, with my mental picture of a farm being something along the lines of Charlottes Web (I know, I know). But I had to ask. And it sounded pretty much exactly like the previous sentence. The answer surprised me slightly, and in a really, REALLY, good way.
Have our favorites and least favorites for sure. Some of the sows that we have for five or six years are our breeders, they all have names, was James response. Jess’ observations were cool “They all recognize Jamie. They know that he’s the man. If you watch their eyes you can see that they know that he’s the boss hog.”
Mama’s are kept with thier babies whenever possible, rather than separating them, and they roam around together. According to James, if sows start to step on thier babies, and continue to do so, they become sausage.
Makes sense. In order to come to these 16 sows that they have now, they went through 40 or 50 that didn’t quite work out.
As we walked back to the farmhouse I asked about the chickens that were running around, and if they ever wandered into the pen with the momma’s and their babies. No, I was told, not so much.
Rather that they wander around and do their own chicken thang.
All is not completely bucolic though.
“I have had roosters attack my kids twice. Both times it happened, I shot them on the spot. Fucking dead.” and “Once they start crowing, I’ll catch the damn thing and then I’m killing it.”
The Swiner Social No. 2
As we talked about the roads that we’ve wandered that have brought us to where we are, The Swiner Social came up. James has taken his culinary talents back to the back of the house, teaming with chefs around the city and creating the most wonderful meals.
The Swiner Social is a chefs tasting menu, comprising of almost every part of the pig. The food is out of this world, and each dish is paired with a drink that has been specifically created for this purpose. (Probably wise to get a room for the night, because those drinks are very well made.)
The second Swiner Social was earlier this year, held jointly with Bill Glover & Josh Kayser of Gallerie.
Hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Tickets are purchased in advance, seating is communal, and drinks are paired throughout the meal. You 100% have to experience this.
Where to Find Them
On the web :: https://andersonfarmsohio.com/