Vivo Kitchen & Donnay Dairy (2016 program, 2017 calendar)

Executive Chef Chris Pare’s love of food is deeply rooted in his own family memories – cooking with his dad, celebrating holidays around his grandparents’ huge oak table, and now teaching his own children cooking skills. Today he loves helping guests dining at Vivo Kitchen in Apple Valley create their own fond food memories. “They trust us with life’s special occasions – big and small,” Chris says. “So we have a motto: ‘Be experience-makers, not order-takers.’”

Tucked on the fringe of the Twin Cities metro, just five miles from surrounding farmland, Vivo is perfectly situated to harness local foods. Because Chris’s grandparents raised dairy cows, he’s always believed in supporting family farmers, but freshness and flavor are side benefits he consistently seeks as a chef. “If I can get something picked that day that hasn’t degraded at all, that’s what I want. He adds, “Farm to table isn’t new, but guests embrace and even command it now. They’re a big driving force.”

Chris is one of many chefs throughout Minnesota who favor the standout creamy texture and tang of Donnay Dairy goat cheese. Owners Brad and Leanne Donnay produce two cheeses using milk solely from their Saanan goats: a fresh chevre and Granite Ridge, a cave-aged cheese available briefly each summer. A true family farm with zero employees, everyone pitches in and nothing goes to waste; whey byproduct is fed back to the goats, and goat manure become compost. Leanne says, “When you have a small farm, you use everything: compost, eggs, syrup – everything. We farm ten acres, milk one hundred fifty goats, and make a living doing what we love.”

The Donnays sell mainly to restaurants, with only a fraction of their cheese available in retail specialty shops. For chefs like Chris desiring the freshest ingredients, Donnay Dairy is an obvious favorite. Brad explains, “Our milk was hay or grass on Monday. It hangs on Tuesday. It’s in the chef’s hands Thursday. It can’t get any fresher than that.”