Heidi Hanson produces Chefs A’Field, the PBS series that celebrates farmers and the chefs who support them. The show is Hanson’s first food project—most of her previous TV work involved wildlife and environmental conservation. But after spending so much time out in the wild and on farms, Hanson wanted to get the word out about sustainable agriculture. “I joke with our chefs that we’re using them,” she says.”It’s really about the farmer.”
The chefs don’t seem to mind—Hanson has signed on some of the best in the country. The James Beard award-winning show's third season, which airs on PBS beginning on May 1, features locals like Restaurant Eve's Cathal Armstrong and Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel's.
We asked Hanson, a Seattle native who now lives in Falls Church, to share some of her kitchen favorites.
Favorite food from the show: We do get to taste. That’s the best part! Recently we were in Cape Cod, it was freezing cold and we broke through the ice to get Taylor Bay scallops. We were shucking them raw and popping straight into our mouths. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life.
Favorite fruit or vegetable: Nothing’s better than a tomato that's taken straight from the vine and is still warm from the sun.
Least favorite veggie: Anything that comes from a grocery store. It’s tasteless.
Favorite condiment: I put Thai rooster sauce [sriracha chili sauce] on everything. It’s like a pepper sauce. And everything is better with salt.
Favorite late-night snack: Popcorn. Especially the stuff the Boy Scouts sell. I don’t know what they do to that stuff. It’s got to be awful for you, but it’s delicious.
Favorite meal to cook at home: I’m always with all these chefs who give us their recipes, but I can’t follow a recipe. I’m good at making things up, adding my own twist. I love to cook whole fish on the barbecue, especially if it’s from the Pacific Northwest. And maybe the best thing that I cook is my famous sherry-chocolate sauce for ice cream or for dipping fresh fruit.
Favorite DC-area restaurant: Duangrat’s and Rabieng, because they’re so close to where I live and work in Falls Church. I love Marcel’s, love the ambiance just sitting at the bar. The Inn at Little Washington is exquisite, but I can’t go back again and again, obviously. Another place where I eat all of the time in DC is Hank's Oyster Bar. The oysters, the mussels --Jamie [Leeds, the chef] knows what to do with a fish.
Do you ever watch the Food Network?: I’m kind of negative about it, but they’re reaching out to people and helping more people have an appreciation for food and cooking. It’s not the kind of programming we do. One Food Network executive told us : ‘Our programming is designed to speak to the lowest common denominator in people...we don’t have any interest in farmers or that kind of thing.’ I don’t know if it’s always the best approach. I was raised on PBS. But it’s kind of a guilty pleasure.
Favorite guilty pleasure show: I like Iron Chef. I cook that way, kind of make things up as I go.
Least favorite Food Network personality: I cannot stand Rachael Ray. She reminds me of those annoying people in high school that you couldn’t stand. Has she ever touched a piece of food that she didn’t love?