A Food Truck Comes Home to the Farm
Words and photography By Nikki Gardner
On a rain-soaked Sunday in October, Brookfield Farm hosted the second annual On Farm Dinner prepared by Wheelhouse Farm Truck. Jake Mazar, Will Van Heuvelen, and Zoe Abram, Wheelhouse founders, met while apprenticing at the farm in 2014 and wanted to share their love of cooking farm-fresh food through a business that could help bring people closer to local farms and food sources.
Since their 2015 launch, Wheelhouse has catered more than 200 events and Zoe has returned to work as assistant manager at Brookfield, the truck’s main supplier. For Jake and Will, this event is a homecoming. First held at Brookfield, the ongoing Feast in the Field dinners, also held this year at Crimson & Clover and Simple Gifts Farms, offer diners a direct connection to the place and season in which their food is grown.
Due to the weather, tonight’s Feast in the Field dinner is a Feast in the Barn featuring a multi-course menu sourced from Brookfield’s own fields for community members, shareholders, and farmers. Events manager Hillary Weber creates centerpieces for the tables with field squash as the barn transforms from a harvesting room into an intimate dining room. Strings of lights attached to rebar posts line the perimeter of the barn, and hay bales nestled under wood planks ensure enough seats for the night. Hillary folds napkins for 55 place settings, and tucks a menu into each folded pocket.
Will arrives with the food trucked in from their commercial kitchen in Holyoke. Notes of garlic and herbs waft from the open door in the food truck where he finalizes each course. The evening’s four-course menu opens with a sourdough sampler that includes Hungry Ghost bread and Cricket Creek cheese. Several friends arrive to help with dinner service and prep work.
The rain slows around 3:30pm when the guests arrive. Hillary has made a batch of thyme lemonade. After a tour of the farm fields with farmers Dan and Karen Romanowski, and Zoe, the first course goes out. The barn lights up with food and conversation. Each course is introduced by Will, who dashes in from food prep in the truck to explain the ingredients. When he tells how his idea for the main course (chicken confit, charred radicchio, volunteer scallions and herb flowers with rye berries) came when he was harvesting vegetables in the fields and noticed the farm’s chickens feasting on radicchio and scallions, everyone applauds.
From their origins working the farm fields to telling the story of the farm on the plate, the evening comes full circle for Wheelhouse. The rain stops and guests wander outside to catch the autumn light cast over the fields. Dessert is served on the grass at sunset. Turns out, it’s a good night for dinner in the fields.