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Garden to Culinary Stars Thrives

Garden to Culinary Stars Thrives

The Chef's Garden grows many fruits and vegetables, including heirloom tomatoes.

Lisa Abraham | The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

HURON – The distribution room reads like a Who’s Who among famous chefs and restaurants – Charlie Trotter, Bobby Flay, Ritz Carltons across the map.

Box after box of vegetables, perfectly packaged, thoughtfully selected, carefully grown, head across conveyor belts for shipping.

Television chef Lee Anne Wong’s cartons of brightly colored heirloom tomatoes await their packing box.

Even the cold packs placed in the boxes to keep these veggies fresh on their journey are frozen on site to lessen the chance of anything contaminating the precious cargo.

Outside, fields of sandy soil are cultivated the old-fashioned way to control the weeds.

Row after perfect row of heirloom vegetables are in various stages of growth. No pesticides are sprayed here. No combines tramp these fields, which are all given proper time to rest and replenish between crops.

Welcome to the Chef’s Garden.

It’s a magical place less than three miles from the shores of Lake Erie which, along with its Culinary Vegetable Institute (CVI), has become a haven for haute cuisine.

The Chef’s Garden and CVI are the operation of the Jones family – father Bob, brother Bob and brother Lee, who is the front man for the farm and has become known nationally as simply “Farmer Jones.”

In his signature blue denim coveralls, short-sleeved white shirt and red bow tie, Lee Jones is the public icon of his family’s business.

It’s Lee who will appear as a judge on an upcoming episode of Iron Chef, for which the Chef’s Garden will grow the secret ingredient. It’s Lee who goes to the New York parties and gets photographed with the food elite.

He proudly plays a telephone message left several years ago by the late Julia Child, who called to thank him for a shipment of heirloom tomatoes. The voice preserved on Jones’ computer is unmistakably Child’s.