Field Venture is a collaboration between Chef James Gop of Heirloom Fire and Magdalena Mieczkowska of Magdalena Events. Having worked on over 100 successful events together, the two wanted to create something that allowed them the opportunity to build imaginative events of their own design from the ground up. Field Venture continues to be a unique expression of James and Magdalena’s vision of their most idyllic celebrations and you’ll want a seat at the table, I promise. Visit them here.
For their latest event, Field Venture hosted “Into The Wild,” an immersive dining experience at Gather Greene, a nature retreat in the Hudson Valley. The team wore Stetson caps throughout the experience.
In this Stetson Story, we interview Chef James Gop with images from “Into The Wild” by Elaina Mortali.
Magdalena wears the Destiny Panama Fedora as she puts the finishing touches on the table settings.
What is your philosophy when it comes to food and the experiences you create around food?
To me it’s about a moment in time, capturing a memory that you will reflect back on as the year pass. It’s a recipe but on a much larger scale. The recipe starts with where you’ve sourced your food and how it was raised. The people you get the food from should be jovial and have a sense of pride in their wears. Then there is the setting; for “Into The Wild,” we wanted to take people out of their expectations of what a restaurant or a conventional dining experience is. The cocktail hour leads the guests through the woods as they stumble upon the multi-sensory course. The presentation is also as important as the ingredients. We eat with our eyes and taste with our nose. I want every individual that is our guest to walk away feeling bewildered and so moved it’s as though they spent a week away from reality.
What’s your favorite dish on the “Into the Wild” menu? Why?
This is a hard question since each dish and experience has so much thought put into it. The dining room for “Into the Wild” will be running along a shale quarry and looks almost otherworldly. As trout is native to upstate NY, we will be preparing a course featuring it. We will make gnocchi with charcoal and roughly shape it in form of the jagged shale. The trout will be gently laid on top of gnocchi “rocks” and a spoon of broth that’s been infused with rockweed to give a bit of an ocean flavor to it. This course will mimic the guest’s surroundings at the table and should have the guests feeling very connected to that moment in time.
What inspires you?
Nature. I often find the best sources of influence for a new dish when looking at a specific area in the woods. Each season lends new fauna and more opportunities for inspiration.
How do you stay creative?
A healthy mix of hard work and reward. I am often sketching new pieces of equipment for us to craft or new dishes. This past winter was an exercise in madness trying to understand how to make the perfect loaf of wood-fired sourdough bread. From feeding the starter at the right times to managing the heat and figuring out a way to inject enough steam in – I was baking every day! After a while that wears me down but if I do things that give me a sense of instant accomplishment like sweeping the floor or doing laundry, that helps tip the scale back into the creative land.
Do you have any memorable food experiences as a child that impacted you as a chef?
It’s interesting. My parents come from the generation of “look how much you can get for so little money” My grandmother, on the other hand, had 5 children and was lower income so she had to make as much from the little she had. Every year for Thanksgiving my grandmother led the charge on the dinner preparations. Starting several days ahead, she would make all of the dishes from scratch. I always watched in amazement because these were one of those few occasions I would get to see the full force of which my grandmother was. In the beginning, I would watch in awe as she would feed big chunks of cabbage into a hand crank food mill to make her classic cabbage salad. One year I was asked to do a few things to help and each year I took a bit more on. As the years passed, I suppose I never knew how important those times around that holiday where to help form me into the cook that I am today.
Do you have any tips for new chefs?
So cliche but put the work in. Work hard, harder than anyone in the room. study in your off time. Enjoy some of the off time indulging in the firewater but not too much. Stay curious and constantly push yourself little by little into areas that are uncomfortable, it’s the only way to grow and understand what you are capable of. Embrace failure, it’s the greatest teacher.
How does Stetson fit into your style?
The name Stetson says it all. It’s been around for a very long time for a reason. The nature of my lifestyle and work (lifting heavy steel, building and cooking over fires in the middle of the blazing heat or surrounded by downpours) demands a high toll on my clothing. At the same time, my crew and I have to look great while we do it. Have an affinity for English Countryside attire so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Stetson mad flat caps. I have a whole slew of caps but the Stetson caps have a level of detail that is above others by a long shot. The attention to detail and rugged durability are exactly what I look for in my clothing and attire.