Ever wonder how chefs find and choose produce for the creative dishes that highlight their daily menus? Chef Oliver Ridgeway from Sacramento’s Grange Restaurant & Bar gives some insight to the process with his Follow the Chef tours offered Wednesday afternoons at the farmers market in Cesar Chavez Park. Chef Oliver gives a guided tour of the market while explaining what products are and how he makes his weekly selections. The tour then concludes with a three-course lunch created from the market selections of the day.


Although the farmers market is designed for anyone and everyone, walking through the abundant supply of fresh and local products is much different when accompanied by a professional. Chef Oliver was greeted by each farmer, who then explained what they were selling and tips for how to eat and keep the products.


Along the way, Chef Oliver introduced the group to grass-fed raw-milk cheese, blueberries picked less than 24 hours prior, a newly released variety of cherry called bad boys, 100 percent pure honey, and a hybrid fruit called the plucot (part plum and part apricot). Each product was delicious, however the plucot seemed to get the most attention and interest, particularly since it was going to be a part of the included lunch.


After sampling several more delicious products, Chef Oliver led the group back to Grange Restaurant & Bar (across the street) for the second part of the tour. Chef Oliver took his place in the kitchen while the group was served a glass of wine in anticipation of what was to come.


Each Follow the Chef tour is complemented by a unique lunch with products from that day’s farmers market. Our menu included a salad made with the plucots sampled earlier in the tour, a beautiful piece of salmon with saffron gnocchi and a trio of cherry preparations for dessert. To say the least, the meal was elegant, filling and fresh.


Chef Oliver made the experience of touring the farmers market fun and inspiring, leaving us with a couple of tips for when he is not walking by our side.


Tip 1: Always look for what is ripe and in season because not only is it the best tasting, but it is the best way to find and try new products.


Tip 2: Talk to the farmers and get to know the products they are selling. They have special insight on how to eat and store their products, plus they have a passion that you won’t find anywhere else.


Tip 3: Educate yourself on what is grown locally and seasonally. The Sacramento region has the unique ability to grow products year-round so buy in season not only for the taste but to support local farmers.


Tip 4: Taste everything! How do you know if you like something if you have never tried it? And, chances are, you will fall in love with all of the products sold at each farmers market.


Chef Oliver leads the Follow the Chef tour every Wednesday between May and October and each tour is completely unique based on the season and the market. For more information or to make a reservation, call (916) 492-4450.