Sow and Tell: Chef Lance Gummere’s Field and Flock
An Atlanta chef keeps it real with his backyard chicken coop and urban garden.
You learn a lot about a man when you walk in his coop.
Like that Lance Gummere, for one, is chicken proud.
The whole reason this Atlanta chef decided to stock his home coop with Ameraucana chickens (along with Rhode Island Reds) was because of the subtle moon-glow blue of the eggs they produce. As co-owner of the fowl-focused Atlanta restaurant Bantam + Biddy, Gummere brings his chicken obsession full-circle from coop to plate.
A Southern boy with a wicked sense of humor, Gummere’s blue eyes sparkle when he catalogues his brood: Soup, Stock, Broth, Consommé and Fricassee. Gummere raises chickens, like so many urban homesteaders, because the eggs are delicious, with molten orange yokes. But he also has a clear appreciation for the beauty and the satisfaction of growing, nurturing and making things, the triple-threat concerns of any chef worth his salt. The one thing he can’t do is eat members of his own flock. “They sort of become like members of the family,” says Gummere who clarifies that he can eat his neighbor’s chickens “no problem.”
Gummere opens a box in his homemade chicken coop to reveal a Martha Stewart photo shoot-ready cameo of four perfect eggs cradled in a bowl of straw, as if some heavenly food stylist were primping nature’s bounty.
In addition to the chickens, Gummere has an impressive culinary garden at the home he shares with his wife, Gracie, and two small sons, Miles and Ryland. The boys trot after their father as he surveys his spread, happily waving around pint-sized shovels and tossing blueberries and blackberries into their mouths. Gummere’s parcel of land sits on a dirt road, the kind of rural-within-the-city juxtaposition that makes urban homesteading so fascinating. Less than a mile away you can buy something called the “ghetto burger” and pawn your worldly belongings. But Gummere’s street feels like a slice of small town America. There are multiple chicken coops and a community garden where sculptors, moonlighting farmers and hobbyists keep their own gardens. Gummere’s garden, tucked into his back and side yard features olive trees, cucumbers, asparagus and containers brimming with sage, parsley, basil, thyme and the mint Gracie makes into tea.
Gummere also grows a variety of peppers and tomatoes for his own homemade brew he calls “Daddy’s Hot Sauce” and stores in Crystal Head Vodka skull jars to warn away the foolhardy. “Close blood relatives get a jar,” says Gummere. Everyone else is on their own. “They come over and they beg for it,” laughs Gummere. Gummere also makes jams and jellies from the berries that grow on his neighbor, Farmer Red’s plot of land. Another neighbor brings Gummere figs from his backyard tree.
“You know how everyone wants to grow up and be a rock star? I want to grow up and be a farmer,” laughs Gummere. “Those guys are so cool!”
Gracie’s Ridiculously Refreshing Mint Tea
- 1 glass cold water
- 1 branch (stem and leaves) of fresh mint plant
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Crushed ice
Muddle mint branch in glass half full of ice. Squeeze juice (no seeds) over muddled ice and mint. Cover with water. Stir and enjoy.
Lance Gummere’s Fig Jam
- 6 quarts water
- 6 quarts figs
- 1 quart water
- 1 whole lemon
Remove stems from figs and slice into halves. Pour boiling water over figs. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Measure figs into cups. Place in a large Dutch oven. Add ½ cup of sugar for each cup of figs. Add the quart of water. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for three hours, stirring and scraping bottom of pan occasionally.
Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars leaving ½ inch of head space. Cover with metal lids and screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.