The Chicken Came First: The Story of A Farmer, A Produce Hunter, and a Rustic Canyon Chef

By Amelia Schwartz | Jaclyn Warren, Photos of Meredith Bell and Karen Beverlin courtesy of subjects

By

Amelia Schwartz
Jaclyn Warren, Photos of Meredith Bell and Karen Beverlin courtesy of subjects
Rustic Canyon's Roasted Half Chicken
Rustic Canyon's Roasted Half Chicken

For Chef Andy Doubrava, dish composition is more than the recipe alone. The key is finding the best-of-the-best product, and in Los Angeles, a county blessed with excellent farmers markets, there’s no shortage of options. So when building a dish like his roasted half chicken, the Rustic Canyon executive chef collaborates with local produce pros and farmers in order to source ingredients that crank each flavor up a notch (full recipe here)

Naturally, it begins with the chicken. “The chickens that we get come with head and feet on,” Doubrava says. “Sometimes, we’re like, fuck it, we’re gonna keep the feet on.” The Autonomy Farms chicken often surprises diners not only in its presentation but also in its taste—its distinct, gamey chew. “It’s not going to be as tender as a run-of-the-mill Perdue chicken. [It has] a little more bite to it, but it’s immaculate.”

Autonomy Farms is owned and operated by Meredith Bell, a corporate hospitality industry veteran. With no prior farming experience, she launched Autonomy in 2014 and bought 20 acres of Bakersfield land in 2017. “I struggled starting the farm because I lacked the self-confidence in knowing what I was doing. I wanted to do it perfectly,” Bell says. “The product now is so much better than the product we had.” Bell raises and directly sells a variety of livestock through farmers markets and delivery, but for restaurant wholesale, she zeroes in on her chickens. Twice a week, Autonomy Farms delivers the butchered chickens to Rustic Canyon, where Doubrava halves and pan-roasts them in schmaltz.

Inspired by a road trip through South Carolina and Tennessee, Doubrava’s roasted chicken packs sweetness from a carrot purée and a sharp punch from a vinegary hot honey. Doubrava’s secret weapon is radishes thoughtfully selected by Rustic Canyon’s farmers market liaison, Karen Beverlin. As the vice president of local and specialty sales for FreshPoint Southern California (more commonly known as “the produce hunter”), she is tasked with curating Los Angeles farmers markets, selecting products for local chefs, and getting the ingredients into their hands. “What I do is simple,” says Beverlin. “It’s just experiencing the product, listening to what chefs have to say about it, and finding the best one.”

When choosing the perfect radish for Doubrava’s chicken, Beverlin provided him with several rounds of options. “Feedback from Andy is one of the most important things because he will [as a chef] discover things that I have not,” says Beverlin. “It’s like crowdsourcing. It’s like having this amazing, talented scout who helps me learn about the products.” So Doubrava settled on the tangy, medium-sized honeydew radishes that give the chicken an extra horseradish-like pop. He sprinkles on toasted pecans then sends it out, feet on or off, depending on the day. Doubrava doesn’t set any specific presentation rules. Ultimately, the beauty of the farm-fresh ingredients can hold its own. 

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