It was quite a while back, actually, that my dear friend Ken retired from Grand Targhee Resort’s ski patrol and moved to Salt Lake City. It was then that he told me it would be a good idea for me to become acquainted with his fellow patroller, Dave Ridill.
Ridill had started a new business, Clawson Greens, growing greens inside shipping containers in Tetonia, Idaho. Now just how unlikely is that scenario?
Around Christmas time of 2017 we met while he was delivering his beautiful produce to Hand Fire Pizza, which serves one simple and delicious salad. It is made of Clawson Greens.
In 2016 he was about to attend paramedic school in Boston when his neighbors approached him with an outlandish proposal. They had discovered a company that used shipping containers to grow food in a controlled environment. They loved the idea and yet believed it more appropriate for someone younger.
As fate would have it, the founder of the company grew up a couple miles from Ridill’s family home. They went to the same high school, although five years apart.
After he returned from training with that company, Freight Farms, the first shipping container grow room arrived at its final home in Tetonia, Idaho. In the winter of 2017 Ridill had his first restaurant customer.
Ridill's system uses a fraction of the water used in most agriculture. The drip irrigation waters the vertical tube, and it all recycles. The environment is temperature and humidity controlled for a growing season of 52 weeks a year. Beautiful organic produce is available mud- and insect-free using no pesticides.
It is an eight-week process from planting the seeds in tiny plugs to harvesting the heads of greens with their root ball attached. The variety of plants ranges from red-veined sorrel and wasabi arugula to rainbow chards and many lettuce varieties. All are vibrantly alive and remain in excellent condition for use for a couple weeks.
As chefs plan their seasonal menus, Ridill provides specialty greens in a timely fashion with three grow room containers that supply 10 local restaurants.
Last winter the customers at The Phoenix and the Dragon were impressed enough that they requested greens for home use.
Eric and Zarina Sakai, who own the restaurant, put together a little CSA. Ridill brought greens and everyone was happy. I hope they do it again next winter. It is true that the salads at the restaurant are particularly tasty.
Their summer schedule serves lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Read the full column and get Ridill's recipe in this week's Scene section.
This story was excerpted from a column written by Chef Notes' Bru, who cooks for private clients and writes about the valley’s talented chefs.