Nestled along the side of Highway 190 in Big Branch is La Provence restaurant. Opened in 1972 by Chef Chris Kerageorgiou, and purchased by Chef John Besh in 2006, La Provence serves world-renowned cuisine, right here in our own backyard. On the grounds of the restaurant is a small farm, and, on a chilly November morning, I had the privilege of attending a honey harvest at La Provence where Chef Erick Loos and Dr. Andy Leonard, a retired surgeon and master beekeeper, demonstrated the process by which their artisan honey is made.
While waiting for the harvest to begin, we were treated to pastries from Willa Jean bakery (part of the Besh restaurant group) and warm French press coffee from the kitchen of La Provence. I was able to visit with the hogs, the chickens and wander among the garden boxes, all filled with fresh vegetables and herbs that will soon be on the table at La Provence.
Before long, it was time for the harvest to begin. Covered from head to toe in bee keeper suits, Chef Loos and Dr Leonard carefully removed the honey frames from the box. This morning, it was too chilly to remove all three frames, leaving one to be harvested at a later date.
After the combs were harvested, the group was led into the kitchen at La Provence, where we we watched the honey making process unfold. Dr. Leonard described the traditional methods, involving a hot knife, and the more modern method involving a hot air blower, similar to a hair dryer.
Then, the honey is run through a centrifuge, and it pours out the spigot on the bottom as the golden liquid we know as honey. Along the way, learned some fascinating facts about honey, including the difference between cream honey (which is what they prefer in Canada) and regular honey and how the hive chooses a new queen bee (it sounds a little like Game of Thrones – serious drama in the beehive!)
At the end of the presentation, all of the guests were treated to a taste of the honey we just saw made, as a topping on house-made yogurt and granola. I’m not usually a huge fan of yogurt, but this yogurt, topped with the fresh honey, was incredible and will be the standard by which all other yogurts are compared.
As I gushed about the yogurt to Chef Loos. he modestly told me it’s not difficult to make, but, I suspect that there’s a great deal of skill and talent that goes into making something that delicious. Thank you so much to La Provence and Maggie at the Besh Restaurant Group for inviting us to this incredible event!