Greg Frey’s culinary career began at the Charleston Grill in Charleston, SC where, under the tutelage of Executive Chef Bob Wagner and Executive Sous Chef Michelle Weaver, he quickly rose through the ranks, eventually earning a trip to stage at Le Bougainvillier in St Galmier, in France. Frey moved to Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley where he learned how to “cook from the farm”. Next came San Diego when he landed at Pamplemousse Grille as Executive Sous Chef in 2010; the position of Chef de Cuisine at La Costa resort for Bluefire Grill followed a year later. Today, Frey is the Executive Chef at the Golden Door in Escondido, CA.
What was your biggest take away with regards to “cooking from the farm” during your time at Bernardus Lodge?
My love of working with fresh ingredients started way back in Charleston, SC as my mentors (Executive Chef Bob Waggner and Executive Sous Chef Michelle Weaver) were always interested in the integrity of products they were using.
Yet, what really made me fall in love with building a strong food-sourcing relationship with local farmers, fisherman and ranchers was living across the mountain in Salinas Valley, the “salad bowl of the United States.” The farmers would drive over to us, which meant we got first pick of the premier fruits and veggies – there was no ordering off a list, you’re literally grabbing the apple and tasting it from the back of their truck.
The side-by-side comparison of either checking items off a list without seeing or feeling the produce vs. putting a freshly picked apple in your mouth when deciding on produce for the day is what changed me completely. It was dealing with people like the Aliotti Family – the only family allowed to catch Spot Prawns in Monterey Bay. They’d ask ‘How many lbs. do you want?’, I’d reach into their tank and pull out these fresh spot prawns to the back of my dock where they would still be pulsating and flicking sea water everywhere. How can you beat that?
What can you tell us about The Golden Door gardens and farmland?
We’re set on 607 acres including the 15-acre parcel where the farm stand is located, where we farm well over 200 acres. On the very top of the mountain are about 500 olive trees planted around the lake, 25 of which are 30+ year-old trees that we rescued. The hope is to have olive oil in the not too distant future! We’ve also got around 140 acres of citrus trees and 75 acres of avocado trees, plus large empty tracks of land that are used for large scale farming. This year we’re looking forward to diversifying our citrus offerings. What makes the property ideal for citrus trees is the decomposed granite and minerals in the soil which is a great source for cultivating citrus and what makes ours taste so special.
“I’d reach into their tank and pull out these fresh spot prawns to the back of my dock where they would still be pulsating and flicking sea water everywhere. How can you beat that?”
What have been some of your biggest successes in the garden?
We have so many beautiful products from the resort’s gardens, but I’d say our tomatoes. Last year we experimented with tomatoes and planted 500 plants amongst the olive groves. This was new for both myself and head gardener Wil Ryan, as it was closer to farming on a large scale – different to the garden farming we do within the resort. The tomato harvest did incredibly well and we ended up canning 1,200 lbs. of mountaintop grown tomatoes, which was quite an experience! This year we are planning to plant a ¼-acre of tomato and see where that goes.
Tell us about the Farm Stand. What Golden Door produce might we find there?
Depending on the season you’ll find fresh grapefruit, oranges and other citrus produce all grown right here on the property. You’ll also find herbs, flowers, sunchokes, carrots and beautiful baby eggplant. As well as eggs and honey from local farms and marmalades and preserves from our artisanal food line. What is also great to note is that 100% of net proceeds from all Farm Stand purchases and the resort are donated to help children of abuse. Come by and check us out – we’re here every Wednesday through Saturday.
GOLDEN DOOR FARM STAND HOURS:
Wednesday – Fridays: 10:30 AM – 3 PM
Saturdays: 9 AM – 3 PM
The moment you enter through the golden doors and cross the yatsuhashi inspired footbridge you will be nurtured, guided and transformed in the legendary, all-inclusive, 5 or 7-day body and mind programs . Located at 777 Deer Springs Rd, San Marcos, CA, Golden Door experiences are designed to help focus the self, regain center and tend to full body relaxation. For more information please call (866) 420-6414 or visit goldendoor.com.