Farm to Fire in the PNW
Tournant began with an oyster and a dream. Jaret Foster and Mona Johnson met while working at Portland Farmers Market, a nonprofit that operates several outdoor farmers markets in Portland, OR. Both had worked in professional kitchens in their youth and eventually, their passion for bringing together food and community led them to start an oyster pop up they named Oyster Social, where guests could enjoy freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell right out of hand at wineries, breweries or other events where their bespoke mobile raw bar surfaced.
Photography by Eva Kosmas Flores
The success of Oyster Social led the pair to dream up other communal feasts where guests would be intimately involved with the food, one another and the experience. A series of events followed, featuring dishes meant to be eaten by hand, many of which were cooked over a live fire: a Korean Bo Ssam, a Spanish Calcotada, a French Eclade de Moules and a Pacific Northwest Crab Boil.
These events gave rise to their unique farm-to-fire cooking approach and Tournant was born. As Jaret explains, “Tournant–a French word meaning turning or revolving and also watershed moment–is guided by the ever-changing seasons and our desire to create meals that celebrate time, place and purpose. Our watershed moment was discovering the power of fire to draw, entertain, warm, feed and connect those around it, making it the glowing heart of what we do.”
Specializing in the ancient yet often unfamiliar art of cooking over fire means that Jaret and Mona can make the world their kitchen, creating beautiful meals from meadows to mountaintops, beaches to forests. Together they travel near and far to create immersive outdoor dining experiences, teach open-fire cooking classes and lead workshops and retreats in remarkable places.
Mona shares that “through Tournant, I have discovered my true north. I get to do what I love with the person I love, and together we create wild, rustic, and beautiful food that honors those who grew and raised it. In this fast-paced, fast-food world, we believe it’s important to create space for people to slow down, connect, and share meaningful moments with one another.”
Several years ago, the duo joined forces with Secret Supper as chef partners, cooking fire-kissed meals in extraordinary locations for adventurous guests seated at a single sumptuously set long table. Through this wonderful partnership, many memorable meals filled with food, fire, wine, and conversation have been created.
Though Secret Supper has since gone on to host suppers far and wide, Tournant has continued to cook for their Pacific Northwest suppers. The most recent supper in May, featured here, was held at Riverside Farms in a blossoming apple orchard perched between the Columbia River and Mt. Hood National Forest. This supper, aptly named Flora, marked their thirteenth collaboration.
When designing a menu for Secret Supper or any of their meals, Mona and Jaret seek to incorporate the theme and to highlight the season and their surroundings. For the Flora supper, a first course of Fior di Latte (flower of the milk) nestled into a wild spring tangle of asparagus, artichoke hearts, herbs and flowers was followed by sturgeon that was smoked over the flames on cedar planks resting on a bed of vibrant carrot puree, charred flowering brassicas and pickled magnolias.
Legs of lamb, hung over the fire to slowly roast, were carved and served atop cider-braised lamb and spring vegetables, along with a ‘five lilies’ fregola featuring green garlic, leeks, ramps, crispy shallots, and wild onion blossoms (alliums being a part of the lily family). For dessert at dusk, a parfait of hibiscus and rose custard topped with rose gelee and rhubarb-elderflower cream was a light and lovely ending to a glorious spring evening.
Through their work, Jaret and Mona continuously draw inspiration from the Pacific Northwest. Even as they travel the world, it is the spirit of the west, where they were each born, raised and now reside together, that imbues their food and philosophy with both a sense of freedom and a reverence for nature, community, and the hardworking farmers, ranchers, fishermen and foragers that make what they do possible.