Shepherdess Valerie Samutin recently honored me by inviting me to a special event at her lovely Freedom Run Farm. As a 30-year wedding anniversary gift to each other, her husband George and she had a special grill welded from his design. When I arrived, the Argentinian style grill over a fire pit had an entire lamb, chickens, rabbits, squash and cabbage hanging off of it with a couple skillets over the fire – all being simultaneously masterfully prepared by Proof on Main Executive Chef Mike Wadja with assistance from Proof Chef Andrew Tivilik and Chef De Cuisine Mark Ford from Anoosh Bistro, who will be assisting Anoosh Shariat at the upcoming Taste America James Beard Foundation dinner.
The sun was just starting to set as Valerie led me on a tour of her farm. She and her husband bought the land and have worked very hard to clear the land, create roads and build their own house on the property while raising the flock. I was most impressed by the Akbash dogs who guard the flock. One of these Turkish guardian dogs stood with his legs over a lamb who was asleep in the grass, but anytime I would move along the fence, the dog would run to adjust its position to keep itself between me and the flock.
Later, as we sat at the camping chair lined candlelit table to eat with a lively assemblage of chefs and their significant others, we heard coyotes howling in the distance. She leaned over to say to me,” Those dogs put their lives on the line every night to keep the flock safe.”
Valerie is one of the most passionate ladies I’ve ever met. She has a specific goal and heads up a consortium of shepherds with the intention of making Kentucky famous for its lamb again. She looked around at the guests around the table saying, “This is what it’s all for. Connecting with people. It’s so important.”
It was a magical laid back evening of food, conversation and camping. I didn’t camp, but I did stay long enough to sit around the fire and enjoy the stars and good conversation. Living in the city, I always forget just how many stars there are until I am out in a rural area again. I spent the night soaking in the view of the sky, the warmth from the fire and the blessing of good people before headed back to Louisville.