Picture the land of the Culinary Vegetable Institute twenty-five years ago: lush with cherry and black walnut trees. When it was time to build the CVI, we needed to cut down trees and we used some of this incredibly gorgeous wood in its construction—and then milled, stacked, and stored the rest.
Fast forward another eighteen years or so, and we were honored to have Jonathan Histed serve as chef for a day at a dinner at the CVI—and even happier when he returned, this time with his parents, to enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner at the CVI (in the middle of the big snowstorm!).
Our worlds continued to overlap as Jonathan traveled the world to enjoy as many Michelin Star restaurants as possible, and we’ve enjoyed chatting about them with him. He and his parents John and Janabelle—all of them incredible human beings—kept attending dinners at The Culinary Vegetable Institute.
Farmer Jones Farm Market Fire
In January 2022, we were stunned when a fire destroyed the barn that housed our farmer’s market and contained historic agricultural items. The fire affected everyone differently, but it was a highly emotional time. Janabelle was especially saddened by the damage done to a 19th century sleigh that we’d bought and restored about twenty-five years ago.
The sleigh’s architecture was stunning, and we’d taken it to Amish country to be refurbished in incredible hues of yellow and blue, and used it proudly when the holidays arrived. Guests really appreciated the hand carved eagles and other fine touches that made the sleigh museum quality.
Fortunately, we’d put the sled in the back of the barn, so it wasn’t completely destroyed in the fire.
Incredibly Generous Offer
Now, here’s how all the pieces of this story come together in the kindest, most generous, and creative offer imaginable. The Histed family offered to take some gorgeous walnut wood left over from the trees that once stood at the CVI and experiment to see if they could be turned into unique cutting boards and charcuterie and cheese boards with a red bowtie embedded to symbolize The Chef’s Garden.
When the idea worked, John —who greatly enjoys woodworking during his retirement years and has a workshop in his basement—made more of them to sell with the funds earmarked to restore the sleigh.
“The carpentry is absolutely gorgeous,” Farmer Lee Jones says, “and highlights the amazing thoughtfulness and goodness of heart of the Histed family. The boards are incredible, and the story of how they’ve created them adds to the value.”
Jonathan says that they tried to make the boards relatively consistent, but they had to use the wood in the best ways they could. So, they created unique boards that respect the wood and its grain.
“I’m almost speechless at their heartfelt generosity,” Farmer Lee admits. “People who know me say that I’m rarely speechless, but the craftsmanship of these boards is so incredible that I almost want to frame mine as a piece of art.”
CVI Chef Jamie Simpson agrees. “There are a million options for a cutting board,” he says, “but the story behind this makes these boards so special.”
Farmer Lee adds one more thought. “Dad would have gone nuts if he could have seen these boards,” he says. “He was a carpenter himself and he would have been thrilled to see the black walnut used in a way that beautifully brings all full circle. Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.”
These limited quantity artisan boards are available at online and at Farmer Jones Farm Market.