Timberline Lodge is an iconic, historic ski lodge that represents the hard-working spirit of pioneering Oregonians. As the Lodge’s Executive Chef, it is very important that we are showcasing the best in Oregon’s products for our close to 2 million visitors a year. We do our best to support and integrate locally sourced food items into all of our menus with a firm belief that Oregonians produce some of the best products available. By purchasing them during their respective agricultural seasons, we are also able to offer a product to our customers at its true height of quality. This has been Timberline’s culinary philosophy since the mid-80s; the producers involved change and the process evolves, but the mission stays the same.
A little over a year ago, I met Keith Nantz and was immediately struck by his unconventional approach to raising beef. His process begins with taking care of the soil and growing “the caviar of pasture feed” for their cattle to graze on. Fresh off of a formative stint in Oregon’s wine country, the philosophy was instantly recognizable to me – winemakers also believe that taking care of the soil allows them to grow better grapes, which makes better wine. Keith was onto something. Discussions led to more discussions and I became enamored with their passion and excitement for producing the best product possible.
His passion is on a different level, and I knew right away that Timberline should take advantage of the opportunity to work with him.
From the beginning, Deschutes River Beef has been transparent and informative as to every step of the process from taking care of the soil to the delivery of its product. I’ve enjoyed walking the pasture, noting the variety of grasses and greenery that the cattle graze upon. I’ve enjoyed discussing and working with Keith as he developed a product that has far exceeded my expectations. My first taste of his beef was revelatory; I used a tasting technique used by winemakers and was amazed as the complexity of flavors went on and on, changing, and becoming more intense as the sensory array expressed itself. Deschutes River Beef simply has a more complex and intense flavor profile than any other beef I’ve tried and the response from our customers has been outstanding.
As a society, we make decisions every day as to what we eat and those decisions affect a whole chain of suppliers as well as the overall health of this planet. As chefs, we make decisions that impact human experience and will leave an impact on the lives of future generations. Affecting a sustainable lifestyle for as many people as possible has been a focus of my career. Creating a positive experience for not only our customers, but also for our employees and producers, has been the greatest satisfaction of my career. Making decisions based on what is best for customers and suppliers simply creates a sustainable food chain for everyone, and Timberline’s scale of services allows us the opportunity to make a larger mark.
As a chef, but also as a citizen of planet Earth, I value working with small producers who are passionate about what they do.
What I never realized until I began working with the product from Deschutes River Beef was the economic impact. I understood that working with small producers helps to promote and support small businesses on an economic level, but I never made the correlation as to how it affects the economic impact on our customers. It wasn’t until I developed out the burger program at our Wy’East Café and incorporated the grind from Deschutes River Beef into the offering that it became clear. We are now able to offer a product in the most casual of settings, of which the quality is so far beyond what is normally expected, and we have been able to do so without significantly raising the prices. The economic impact of working with a company such as Deschutes River Beef drastically improves the experience of our visitors and our customers have already taken notice.
Simply by thinking outside of the box and developing a process to raise beef that isn’t hindered by preconceived notions, Deschutes River Beef has defied convention and produced a product that will change the way other cattlemen think about their processes. I am proud to work with Keith, and as a team, Deschutes River Beef and Timberline Lodge are on the forefront of a changing the quality, economics and sustainable impact of Oregon’s food chain.