As the Similkameen Valley becomes a destination for the creative cook to source the freshest ingredients, one of its iconic historic sites has added a seasoned chef to its team.
The Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos welcomes chef Natasha Schooten, whose career has taken her from two Delta Hotels and Resorts, to Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, and most recently to Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek Estate Winery.
“Here in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, chefs are blessed with plentiful access to the freshest ingredients, from organic vegetables to thoughtfully raised proteins,” said Schooten. “Setting menus for the Tea Room and events at the Grist Mill in the heart of farming country is an exceptional opportunity for me as a chef.”
The Grist Mill is home to the mill itself, the only working mill of its type west of Winnipeg, and a provincial heritage site. Visitors can watch grain becoming flour. Originally built in 1877, the mill produces flour that may very well end up in the site’s own outdoor stone oven.
A campground, the Tea Room, gift shop, and surrounding gardens round out an entire experience not to be missed.
Heritage plays a critical role on the property, where almost 40 varieties of heritage apple trees thrive, and research has led to the preservation and popularity of wheat types, such as Red Fife.
“We are pleased to welcome Chef Natasha as we continue to build our capacity for visitors, and treat them to a true farm to table experience,” says Chris Mathieson, operator of the site. “We are very lucky to have a chef of such caliber plant her culinary roots in the Similkameen.”
Schooten has already begun establishing herself at the Grist Mill. She will soon be placing her stamp on the menu in the Tea Room, where visitors can enjoy local preserves, organic tea and coffee, as well as a lunch of soup, salads and sandwiches, all from locally sourced, seasonal and ingredients, as well as creating menus for the Mill’s summer concert series and other special events.
Many of the vegetables and herbs used in the dishes will come from heritage plants grown on the site’s two acre garden, and of course the freshly milled flour will be highlighted.
“I have often come to the Similkameen for ingredients, now they will be closer than ever, and truly reflect the history of agriculture and preservation at the Mill,” said Schooten.