Chef Check In – Chris Van Hooydonk, Backyard Farm Chef’s Table
In this blog series, we are checking in on some of the chefs whose recipes are featured on our website. We’ll touch base with them, and find out how their lives, and careers, have changed since their recipe’s debut.
For this feature, we reunite with Chef Van Hooydonk, the chef and proprietor of Backyard Farm Chef’s Table in Oliver, who gave us this amazing Ambrosia Apple Carrot Cake Recipe – CLICK HERE
After 23 years in the high-end culinary industry, Chris’s love of his craft inspired him to pursue a long anticipated dream — operating a farm based intimate dining room and private cooking school, located just outside of Oliver, BC. Motivated by creativity, a tailored approach to cooking has been the most fulfilling component of his first business project, Artisan Culinary Concepts, a private chef service and restaurant consulting company launched in June of 2013.
Since Chef Chris’ Ambrosia Apple Carrot Cake recipe was launched on our website, he and his wife Mikkel have had another little girl join their family. The expansion at the farm has evolved immensely as well, as they have developed the ability to grow 60-70% of the produce used for their clients and guests. They host guests at their chef’s table at Backyard Farm for private culinary experiences and workshops, and Artisan Culinary Concepts hosts offsite winery events, private chef services and catering services.
The Van Hooydonk children absolutely love Ambrosia apples, and they are a staple in the family’s fridge. Recently Artisan Culinary Concepts included an organic Carrot and Ambrosia Apple Cake, in their “Black Box” comfort kit, using the exact recipe featured on our website, as well as an Ambrosia Apple and Cabbage Slaw.
Chef Chris loves the flavor and texture of Ambrosia Apples as simple as they are, iin their truest form. “Raw, delicious, sweet and crisp,” he muses. “I enjoy using them in baking, in addition to savory applications in soups and salads. Grilled Ambrosia Apples also offer an elevated presentation to tarts and sandwiches – the caramelization of the natural sugars really enhance their diversity.”
The current pandemic has affected Backyard Farm’s business drastically. The inability to host guests at their Chef’s Table meant a significant loss of revenue in April and May, concurrent with the start-up costs for the farm and growing season. As much of the company’s revenue is generated through pre-booked catering, and events with winery partners in the region, the ban on social gatherings led to many cancellations.
The news isn’t completely bleak, however. “Many of our clients supported our future by postponing, or rescheduling rather than cancelling,” Chris tells us. “This most certainly has been incredibly helpful for our future operational abilities.”
They also pivoted the business for the short term so that they could pay some bills and support some of the staff, offering the “Black Box Comfort Kit,” a bi-weekly retail meal kit, which included a few day’s-worth of handcrafted meal components, locally grown and seasonal ingredients from farming partners and producers. “Although the retail approach to our food philosophies and efforts is not as profitable, we felt it was an opportunity to get people in the kitchen cooking healthy and inspiring food,” says Chef Chris. “It also provided some necessary and appreciated distraction during a stressful and uncertain time.”
“I learned that during times of stress, the measure of ‘community,’ and support becomes more apparent. We feel so fortunate to have so many doing what they can for us,” concludes Chef Chris. “It has re-instilled our feeling that the decision to put down roots here is the best one we have made in business, and life! Further to all of this, my hope is that this crisis has inspired people to appreciate where our food is coming from. I think that the convenience of ‘one stop shopping’ has caused a disconnect from this perspective. I hope that this unprecedented time in our history gives more perspective in the value and cost of good quality, accessible, sustainable food and more respect to those who grow it, cook and serve it. I think that our food system has been undervalued and taken for granted for too long, my hope is that this is changing.”
Backyard Farm Table is back up and running, and accepting reservations for small groups.
For more information about Backyard Farm Chef’s Table, call (250) 485-2249, or visit