DISCOVERING LOCAL: GOODFELLOWS FIELD TO FORK
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘Try this.’ I look up from the bakery’s beautifully-worn wood counter and see a sharpened four-inch butcher blade hovering inches from my face. ‘Go on,’ Chef Ryan coaxes. ‘Trust me.’ Then, ‘this one’ll blow your mind.’ On the end of his knife – a sizable chunk of heaven. I carefully remove the morsel and take a bite. Gooey pungent perfection. Cheese.
Yep – this is my job.
It’s a Tuesday morning in August. I’ve just dropped o the kids – one at daycare and one at summer camp. And now I’m hanging out at Rockwood’s Goodfellows Field to Fork. And the sun is streaming in through the massive front window emblazoned with the business’s logo. And I’m chatting with owners Ryan and Claudia Goodfellow about how in the world these two successful Red Seal chefs from Toronto – ‘from Parkdale,’ Ryan emphasizes several times – ended up on the main strip in Rockwood. And they’re offering me a wonderful espresso. And cheese.
‘From Rivers Edge Goat Dairy in Arthur,’ Ryan declares proudly, pointing at the remaining hunk. This will become a common theme throughout my visit; namely, Claudia and Ryan highlighting products from area farms. ‘Even the starter for our sourdough is derived of spent grains from Royal City Brewing Co, Wellington Brewery, and Stonehammer Brewing,’ Ryan offers. ‘And our gluten-free sourdough uses a starter that combines homemade kombucha with gluten-free our from Flour Barrel in Guelph.’
I get the sense that these former Toronto chefs simply can’t get enough of our area farms and local producers. ‘Each Wednesday afternoon, we buy enough meat and produce at the Rockwood farmers’ market to last us through Friday,’ Ryan boasts. ‘And then each Saturday morning, we’re off to Guelph [ten minutes by car; thirty by bike] to buy enough at the downtown market to last through Wednesday.’ Their affection for these communities is palpable. And what they have on offer at Goodfellows reflects this relationship, with menu items changing in response to what they can source locally. Delectable items like Focaccia Barese. Sususmelle cookies. Sweet and savory scones. Nutella Pockets. Vegan pizza with roasted asparagus. I could go on.
But back to how these two ended up here in Rockwood – a small village nestled along the banks of the mighty Eramosa in the township of Guelph/Eramosa.
‘Kijiji . We actually found the place on kijiji,’ notes Claudia with a chuckle. ‘Truth be told, we’d never even heard of Rockwood before
we saw the online listing.’ But after checking out the tiny town and scouting the potential of the location – which involved stealthily parking across the road and counting how many cars drove past on a typical morning – Claudia and Ryan decided to take the plunge: ‘We thought if we got even a small fraction of the car and foot traffic that passes by the place, we’d manage to keep the lights [and oven] on.’
And so they dove in. During the winter of 2016 Claudia and Ryan decided to quit their jobs at The Tempered Room in Toronto. (One or the other of them had also worked at The Intercontinental, Forno Cultura, The Healthy Butcher, Rowe Farms and others.) By the end of March they opened the doors of Goodfellows Field to Fork. ‘Back then,’ remarks Claudia, ‘we simply sold everything out of the basement kitchen.’ A kitchen that’s accessible only if you head outside and go around the corner, as I discovered when Ryan led me into that small space with a ceiling so low I couldn’t stand straight.
‘We started out with a single oven, a fridge we bought at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, two metal shelving units, and a collapsible table where Claudia would knead the bread,’ Ryan recalls. ‘A table that kept collapsing almost every time I used it,’ adds Claudia. ‘It was enough to make me want to pack it all in.’ But they didn’t. Instead, the two chefs and life partners – determined to make things work – worked to make things work.
At the beginning, money from catering helped them get established. By August 2016 they were finally 57 able to open their ‘small artisanal Italian bakery’ upstairs. And since then, things have really taken off . Now, besides enticing and satisfying regulars and new converts at their shop in Rockwood, they distribute Goodfellows items to Top Market Meats (in Cambridge), Little Tree Garden Market (in Fergus), and The Stone Store, The Common and Rowe Farms (all in Guelph).
Although I could chill at Goodfellows all day, by noon it’s time for me to go. Not before loading up on all sorts of goodies, though. On the short drive back to Guelph, I devour a gluten-free Toad in the Hole with basil, juniper, pesto, cremini mushrooms and goat cheese. And my mind is blown. And I thank God for kijiji.