Dinner parties are back on the table, spurring a boon for private chefs and catering companies, who arrive at your condo or home with, gasp!, better food in hand than you’ll ever cook.
MEET: Chereen Leong Schwarz — Wilderbean Provisions
At first glance, the colorful assortment of greens in one of Wilderbean Provisions’ salads masquerades as your standard salad. But for Chereen Leong Schwarz, there’s a story behind that dish. Owner of Wilderbean Provisions, which works exclusively with farm-to-table ingredients, Leong Schwarz provides a connection through food in each dish. “I love the storytelling aspect of where the food came from,” she says. “There are times when I can tell the client that I harvested the vegetables or butchered the animal they’re eating.”
Not only does she grow the food or forage it herself, she sources ingredients from local purveyors and serves on the board of advisors for the Community Ag Alliance, spending time on the farms and getting her hands in the dirt. Whether it’s a farm-to-table dinner or a bachelor party on a local ranch, her country-style dishes were born from necessity and generations of perfecting recipes. “These farms had to use local and seasonal ingredients and I love trying to recreate and put my own twist on them,” she says.
Leong Schwarz grew up in San Francisco, earning her degree in food science from the University of California Davis before attending the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley. In 2012, she and her husband, Rob, followed friends to Steamboat, where she honed her craft at Bistro C.V. and Mountain Tap Brewery. She then landed at Elkstone Farms for two years as a culinary instructor. In 2020 she transitioned to Wilderbean and her other business, Smeeny Beanie Knits, creating hand-knit hats.
She says flavor and not overthinking the food is key. “I spent many years working in fine dining where we would make these beautiful gastronomic creations, but now I’m drawn to simpler dishes, country-style cuisine and rustic cooking,” says Leong Schwarz, who also joins sommelier Andrew Fossum for wine pairing dinners. “It really lets the ingredients speak for themselves.”
Transitioning into more seasonal offerings, she has big dreams to host on-farm dinner events with live music as well as pop-up dinners at different outdoor locations. In the meantime, catch her online through her virtual cooking classes or on her blog sharing new recipes. Info: www.wilderbeanprovisions.com