This story was sponsored by Kitchen Porch Catering. Interested in telling the story of your business? Contact Danielle@mvtimes.com.
When you think of food on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s hard not to think of Chef Jan Buhrman, owner of Kitchen Porch Catering and the Back Porch. As a champion of sustainability, Jan’s philosophy is that locally sourced food is good for both your body and the community. She believes that making good, nutritious food is easier than you think.
Jan has made it her mission to educate and inspire people to eat better, every day, through cooking workshops and her takeaway eatery, the Back Porch. The food, programs, and workshops offered at the Kitchen Porch and Back Porch are inspired by the genius and passion of Jan, along with a team of three chefs Meave McAuliffe, Ismail Samad, and John Tau. Jan has also worked closely with nutritionist John Bagnulo for more than nine years to educate people about how food can be a source of well-being.
“When I heard John speak about the health and vitality of a person who eats food locally and organically, and how that affects our bodies, it was a connection for me,” Jan said in a recent conversation. “I’ve always believed in a local food community, I’ve always believed in supporting our local farmers. This is vital to our own health, but this is also vital to our community.”
With this in mind, Jan created the Back Porch as a way to offer healthy, delicious, and quick meals that are locally sourced. The weekly menu items are not set, but rather driven by what the farms or fishermen have available. Tuesdays usually have a Mexican dish, Wednesdays will usually have a grain and vegetable item, Thursdays a meal with a Moroccan or Mediterranean flavor profile, and Friday is pizza day. The Back Porch always has bone broth, premade dinners, baked goods, coffee, preserves, pickles, and jams.
“We need to promote our local farmers, and it ties in really beautifully to the Back Porch,” Jan said. “We opened as a way to use up more of our catering food [like vegetables or fish]. It’s easy to order more of a certain food while we’re getting bulk orders in, and then turn that into food that is sold at the Back Porch.”
In late October, when Jan was placing her food order with Morning Glory, she heard they had a bumper crop of tomatoes. She ordered 200 pounds of green and red tomatoes, and got to work making soup, jam, and preserves. The soup was served at the Back Porch, and the jam and preserves will be put on the catering menu next summer. She’s also worked out an arrangement with the Menemsha Fish Market to get their catch of the day every Friday, even though she doesn’t know what fish it will be. “Then we know we’re supporting that local fisherman, and we’re turning that product into something amazing and delicious, just like 200 pounds of green tomatoes,” she said. “We take it, but then we’ll figure out what to do with it.”
This type of operation is the most sustainable way to run her business, she says, and it goes a long way toward supporting and maintaining a local food system.
So next time you’re in a pinch for lunch, or are tired of leftovers for dinner, stop by the Back Porch for a premade dinner. If you place your dinner order by noon, it can be delivered for a $10 delivery fee. Dinners cost $20 per person. Or, if you’re looking for a more ambitious way to support your local food suppliers and the team at the Kitchen Porch year-round, the Back Porch now has a Vineyard Eaters Club. The cost is $500 up front, which is applied to each purchase at the register. Members will get a bag of stuffing for Thanksgiving, a free cup of coffee with every purchase, and a free cooking class.
Kitchen Porch classes
This upcoming season, there is a lot to look forward to at the Kitchen Porch besides food. In addition to a bounty of scrumptious meals, Jan will lead a variety of private cooking classes and group workshops to bring people one step closer to their local farmers and fishermen. Cooks of any ability are invited to put on an apron and hop in the kitchen with Jan. Classes cost $79 a person, including a light dinner, and are designed for 12 to 20 people.
Weekly workshops run every Thursday through December, but can also be the perfect setting for a work retreat or a substitute for a holiday party. “We have a few offices coming in at the end of the month who are bringing their whole team in for a cooking class,” Jan said. “We do personalized interviews to identify their challenges in the kitchen, so we can customize it around the group. Then have dinner, and they bring their own wine. It’s a different take on a holiday party.”
With the holidays coming up, there are several ways to incorporate the Kitchen Porch into your festivities. For those who are hosting their first Thanksgiving or want to take some of the stress out of the day, there is a Thanksgiving meal-prep class on Thursday, Nov. 16. This class is all about cooking smart and staggering your meal prep throughout the week. Class participants will learn about brining turkeys, and how to properly roast a turkey. Students will walk away with plenty of recipes and inspiration.
“We give you a chart that lays out how you’re going to stagger your cooking throughout the week, so you’re not cooking a pie on Thursday morning,” Jan said. “You can premake your stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes, or roasted Brussels sprouts, and heat them up when you’re ready to serve.”
And if you’re not sure where to get your organic bird for turkey day, the Kitchen Porch has that covered, too. You can preorder a turkey through the Kitchen Porch, which will be getting its birds from Mary’s Organic Turkeys.
Later in the month, on Thursday, Nov. 30, you can sharpen your skills as you prepare for more holiday cooking. The class will cover classic holiday recipes such as roast tenderloin, whole poached fish, dips and spreads, or seared scallops. “This class is more focused on savory flavors than sweets, like setting up a grazing station,” Jan said.
The Kitchen Porch is also offering something new this holiday season with four types of curated gift baskets. The baskets are $100, and feature Kitchen Porch jams, granola, spices, preserves, pickles, and candied nuts, in addition to local products from MV Sea Salt, Chilmark Coffee, and Island Bee products. It’s presented in a wrapped chicken-wire basket.
The 2017 workshops will conclude with a bread-baking class on Dec. 9, and a basic soup making class on Dec. 16. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Check out the Kitchen Porch’s 2018 schedule for a chance to learn about bone broth making and how to put up food for the winter. Because when it comes to Jan Buhrman, there’s always something cooking in the kitchen.
The Back Porch is open Tuesday through Friday from 7:45 am to 4 pm, and is located at 14A Street in the M.V. Airport Business Park, across from the RMV. To register for a class, call 508-645-6000. For more information visit kitchenporch.com/culinary-experiences.