Who Is Chef Joel?
Sunrise Ranch is proud to highlight their Head Chef, Joel Navejas. After earning an Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he returned to Colorado in 2006 with his wife, Rosie, and their daughters, Isabela and Kyla. Chef Joel is well versed in world food cultures, including European, Asian and Latin. He has fifteen years of experience in the food service industry and has served as Executive Chef at both The Rustic Oven and Whole Foods in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Joel likes to experiment with different foods, especially comfort foods. “One of my favorite dishes is my grandmother’s tamales.” He shares his passion with his family and loves to create meals with his daughters. Our new Head Chef follows the hottest new trends, such as Farm-to-Table, and stays current with modern cuisine culture.
He enjoys biking and the outdoors, documentary films, and working on his home improvement projects. He is a fan of both roller hockey and ice hockey and plays the latter whenever he can.
Chef Joel holds a spiritual view toward food, seeing the importance of connecting with the food at all levels and stages of growth. He inspires others to look beyond eating to survive, using foods with high nutritional value and preparing unique dishes with delicious ingredient combinations. The Sunrise Farm and Garden and the Sunrise Kitchen also share this respect for the food they grow and serve. Along with blessing the food throughout its life cycle, the meal always receives one more blessing by the chef and kitchen staff before it is served.
The Food Bank initiated Kids Cafe program, where Joel helped create and implement menus for their school lunch program. He also assisted in, with the help of students, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program by introducing healthier menu options to Northern Colorado schools. The Gardens on Spring Creek in Fort Collins donates all the produce from their garden to the Food Bank and Chef Joel created menus for them to help people utilize these fresh ingredients in delicious, healthy meals. He is also planning on teaching classes this summer on how to process and integrate garden ingredients into your daily diet.
Joel loves what he does and continually seeks ways to improve his culinary skills. “I love to take a traditional recipe and put an innovative spin on it!” Chef Joel’s menus at Sunrise Ranch have shown examples of this by his deconstructing of familiar dishes and highlighting them with farm ingredients. He welcomes ideas from people who love to prepare different and exciting dishes. “There’s nothing like creating something new without losing the nostalgia of the dish, while increasing the flavor and presentation!”
Why Sunrise Ranch?
It is the farm-to-table concept that really sparked the interest and imagination of this chef. “It is amazing to have all the ingredients here on the property at your fingertips.” Sunrise Ranch goes beyond organic farming and grassfed beef. His respect for where ingredients come from along with the other resources found at the ranch reflect on all he has done at Sunrise Ranch—from the care and handling of the animals to the emphasis on permaculture gardening.
“I think guests will taste the difference in the ingredients and it is always exciting to speak of where they came from and how they arrived on your plate.” It is special to harvest fresh vegetables out of the garden and then serve them on the same day.
He plans to design the menus using mainly seasonal ingredients grown at Sunrise Ranch. “I want the ingredients to be the star, inspiring the cuisine.”
Sunrise Ranch is planning to implement a Culinary Academy internship program in 2013. Chef Joel will be integral in the development of this program and is looking forward to teaching culinary skills to students. He wants to teach current chefs and culinary interns how the whole farm-to-table process comes together, connecting the farm, garden and the kitchen, and how to create meals with these fresh ingredients.
Joel shares his excitement about the possibilities available at Sunrise Ranch and this new stage in his career. Some of the ideas are to create a butchery classroom, teach sauce and vegetable preparation courses, and teach the full curriculum for a farm-to-table culinary experience. He envisions the farm and garden expanding, growing more winter vegetables and maintaining the farm-to-table experience year round.
Joel is excited about the people he has met at Sunrise Ranch and even more excited about the people who will be coming to work with him. He can already imagine expanding into the media world and exploring other outlets to bring more attention to Sunrise Ranch and the creative possibilities with food.