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Altamont Fair Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 19, 2010
Sheetz brings excellent cooking habits from the People’s House to the fair
By Jordan J. Michael
ALTAMONT Noah Sheetz, the executive chef for the Governor’s Manison, loves to cook with local products. He stopped by the Altamont Fair on Tuesday to share his skills with onlookers.
Sheetz estimated that 85 percent of the products he uses are locally grown. He stops at numerous farms on Route 9 between Albany and his home in Red Hook. Add to that the already existing three gardens and eight raised beds on the governor’s property.
“What is local?” asked Sheetz. “Is it within 100 miles or seven hours away? We try to support New York as much as possible.”
Vinegar, olive oil, raisins, and nuts aren’t usually local, according to Sheetz, but everything else can be obtained. “Mr. Paterson likes to have the freshest of fresh food,” he said.
On Tuesday, at the Blue Ribbon Cooking Center, Sheetz prepared buckwheat crepes with a kohlrabi, corn, diced red pepper, and cheddar filling. Kohlrabi is a low, stout cabbage-like vegetable that grows almost anywhere.
The Pocono Buckwheat Flour that Sheetz used was from Birkett Mills, a 200-year-old farm that is the largest producer of buckwheat in the country.
Sheetz fired up his pan and started flipping crepes while asking the crowd how it felt about the French-tastic food. “It makes me think of delicious desserts,” one woman said.
Apparently, crepes need the perfect touch. “They’re either too thick or too thin,” Sheetz said. “You have to flip it in the pan just right.”
After the crepes were finished, Sheetz started to get the kohlrabi ready by adding some butter and olive oil to a pan. Sheetz said that he uses Cabot butter because the company is a “cooperative” business from Vermont.
After cooking the kohlrabi for a few minutes, Sheetz added the diced red peppers, salt, pepper, and leaks. The kohlrabi, red pepper, and leaks came from the garden at the Governor’s Mansion, a place Sheetz likes to call the “People’s House.”
Sheetz talked about how a deer once ate up the governor’s whole garden a few years ago. “The police came by to sedate the deer,” he said, getting a chuckle from the audience. “But they were filling out all this paper work while the deer is still chomping away.”
Corn from Youth Organics, Adirondack Black Wax Cheddar, Sumah Spice, and a touch of vinegar were added to the pan to top the filling off. The Sumah spice is made with some Thai chile peppers.
The 20 or so spectators tried the dish and it seemed to get glowing reviews. It was a bold taste that was both sweet and spicy. Sheetz, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, likes food with a little kick.
“I’m really fascinated by vegetables, especially in the summer,” Sheetz said. “I like to try new things with them.”
Sheetz, 37, who has been executive chef at the Governor’s Mansion for over five years, told The Enterprise that he and his partners set up a temporary kitchen during the summer in the backyard and hold demonstrations for youth groups.
“We harvest and cook with the kids,” said Sheetz. “We had a growing trial, which extended the season.”
Before working at the mansion, Sheetz cooked at a nursing home, had a bakery, and even worked at a prison. “I enjoy the stability of a state job,” he said.
Sheetz said his favorite dish to make is a wheatberry pilaf with dried cherries and chicken. Governor Paterson enjoys lighter meats like chicken and fish, as well as plenty of vegetables, he said.
“The gardens are the best I’ve ever seen,” Sheetz said. “I couldn’t tell you why, but we even have artichokes.”
Sheetz, who sees Paterson in passing, says, “He loves the taste of the food, but he also likes to see the presentation,” said Sheetz. “You know, everyone thinks he’s blind, but he can see. He knows what he’s doing and where he’s going.”