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A Tribute to Chef Joji at Mezze Bistro

Kim Wells of East Mountain Farm Shares His Favorite Menu at Mezze

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The celebration of Mezze Bistro’s 20th Anniversary this month got me thinking of the special meals I’ve had at Mezze over the years. Many of them were with Joji Sumi, a big fan of using pork and an experienced chef who practiced nose-to-tail cooking. Every other week, Joji would butcher a whole pig from my farm to make charcuterie and create mouth-watering dishes for the restaurant’s seasonal menu.

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Joji would visit my farm regularly and bring along his kitchen team to see where their food was coming from. They would save compost scraps from the kitchen for the pigs, which created this fantastic closed-circuit system of local food. Early on, I remember a time when Joji came up to the farm to see the pigs and a large heritage breed pig emerged from the forest. Its jowls were so large it could barely see past them. Joji was transfixed but finally turned to me and said, “I’m in love.”

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship ;-)

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My most memorable and passionate meal at Mezze was the “pork-tastic” banquet Joji created for us at the end of August in 2010. I had just started selling a side of pork to Mezze and the first one I brought in was from a heritage breed pig with the usual two to three inches of fatback. Joji was quietly inspecting the pig and, given his expression, I thought he might be alarmed by the quantity of fat. I asked him if something was wrong and he said, “No, this is just me being happy!”

My oldest son was visiting from California that week so my wife Lynda and I, along with my mom and dad, headed out to Mezze on a Saturday night. At first, we were handed menus but when word got to the kitchen that the farmer was in the house, the server asked for them back and said we wouldn’t need menus. Joji had a special meal planned for us. All ten courses highlighted East Mountain Farm pork. Joji’s creative talents exploded once he had the raw ingredients and we enjoyed that meal immensely. I thought, with all the nostalgia going on with Mezze’s 20th Anniversary, that you would enjoy seeing the menu from that night.

Joji's porktastic dinner

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Kim Wells of East Mountain Farm

 

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Chef Joji Sumi, former Mezze Chef

All photos courtesy of Kim Wells of East Mountain Farm in Williamstown, Mass.