by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Is there anyone in the greater Rockford area who hasn’t taken a cooking class hosted by Chef Robin Toldo? If not, all is not lost for soon you will be able to have all your cooking queries answered face to face by the charming and delightful Chef Robin in her soon-to-be opened boutique food pantry – Food Art. Last Wednesday evening, Chef Robin hosted an invitation only soft opening of her Belmont storefront located at 1259 Post Drive, right next door to Flo’s Italian Ristorante. It was standing room only all evening as Chef Robin’s many friends and adoring fans sampled the local, West Michigan sourced foodstuffs she plans to offer. Perhaps Chef Robin is better known for her 100% fresh, all natural ingredient, hummalicious hummus which she produces and distributes locally to many fine food marts such as Forest Hills Foods, Kingma’s, and the upscale Plum Markets of Ann Arbor and Bloomfield Hills. Others know Chef Robin from weekly appearances as a regular vendor at the Saturday morning Rockford Farm Market where she, more often than not, sells out of hummus. It was at Rockford Farm Market that the “seeds” for her Food Art store were planted. This was America’s Favorite Farmers Market after all, and Robin was surrounded by purveyors of quality West Michigan produced foodstuffs such as, Great Harvest Bread, Maisy’s Pie and Cookies, and Local Epicurian organic herb infused hand-crafted noodles, to name a few of many. Chef Robin thought, “Why not make all this great food available locally year-round?” Seeking a space for a larger hummus production kitchen of her own, she decided to also include a retail storefront and make this dream a reality. In a Grand Opening scheduled for Thursday, October 11, Chef Robin plans to also offer Veggie Bites – all natural pickle chips, Daily de-lish Organic Oat Granola, Amos and Maude’s seasoning mixes, Grassfields organic cheeses, Englesma’s Apple Barn cider, and the Dancing Goat Creamery’s goat cheeses – fresh chevre, traditional Greek feta, soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese. This is but a partial list. There you have it! Food Art – local food for local people.
Chef Robin Toldo
Not willing to rest on its laurels the Rockford Farm Market – America’s Favorite – has added four new regular vendors to its already stellar cast. Filling in the blanks and taking the Market to the next level are relative newcomers as follows: Rockford resident Chef Robin Toldo needs no introduction, her cooking skills are well known to the Rockford community. Robin invites everyone to experience “hummus as never before” at Rockford’s Farm Market. In her booth, next to Great Harvest Bread, she vends 4 varieties of hummus that add a whole new gourmet twist for hummus lovers. Made completely from scratch and composed of 100% fresh natural ingredients, they contain no preservatives or coloring. All natural ingredients equal all natural fresh gourmet taste. Robin calls it HUMMALICIOUS! Don’t take her word for it, sample her offerings yourself at the Market on Saturday mornings. Local resident Vonnie Engelsma, owner of Maisy’s Pie Company, caters to everyone’s sweet tooth. Vonnie has a life-long love affair with baking – pies that is. She learned her craft at the knee of her beloved Grandma Maisy. At her market booth Vonnie offers hand made pies and other sweets just like Grandma used to make. Using only the best ingredients and baking in small batches ensures fresh high-quality products. Along with pies of all varieties and sizes, customers will find popovers, tarts, cookies, cupcakes, and more – just ask! Special orders can be placed for pick up the following week. Celiac disease or wheat allergy concerns? No problem! Rockford residents Kristy Naumann and Emma Darling, the Gluten Free Ladies, have the baked goods to fill your special needs. The ladies are storehouses of knowledge on the subject and are more than happy to answer any and all questions along with offering up really tasty and healthy gluten free products. They also offer “Gluten-free(dom)”, a spiral bound recipe book for gluten-free living. Partners Steve Bowyer and Ryan Raredon, of “The Local Epicurean”, used America’s Favorite Farm Market last summer to test market their handcrafted and organic herb infused pastas. In part because of their huge success in Rockford, the pair opened a storefront early this year on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids. Back this year at Rockford’s Farm Market, they are […]
Robin Toldo is a locally trained chef who has been teaching fun, informative and delicious classes in the Rockford area for the last four years, as well as adult enrichment cooking classes for Rockford Community Services. “I have endeavored to work in every aspect of the culinary world, starting at the age of 14 at the infamous west side hangout, Sandy’s Donuts. What fun! I then moved on to a busy and rambunctious—and that is putting it lightly—downtown deli,” Toldo said. Next was catering for the Marriott Corporation in Sault Ste. Marie, while attending Lake Superior State University for a major in psychology and a minor in child development. That didn’t turn out to be her life’s destiny, so back to Grand Rapids she went to attend Grand Rapids Community College’s culinary arts program. Along with the move came a position at the original Pietro’s Ristorante. “Crazy, busy, delish. I waitressed at night and did food prep during the day,” Toldo said. The next interesting job was one that would, unknowingly, prepare her for life as a busy mother of five. “I became an in-home personal chef for the Baar family. I created the work-week’s meals, did the grocery shopping, as well as the food preparation—AND the dishes, ugh!—for a family of four,” explained Toldo. A tour through the prestigious Kent Country Club placed her in a “rounds chef” tutelage with Certified Executive Chef Brian Walsh. There, Toldo saw her destiny: fresh local cuisine, powerful in flavor, color and texture. “I was in love with food. Someone once dubbed me ‘Ratatouille’ from the kid’s movie—perfect!” said Toldo. “There, I learned classical French cuisine in all of its glory, and worked with some amazing, well-trained people, including a guy named Derek, who now stars in an ice-carving show on television.” The end of culinary school brought yet another urge to broaden her resume. Toldo sent out letters to places all over out west, including “The Ranch,” a fancy four-diamond restaurant in the resort town of Keystone, Colo., where she eventually worked as the head of the “Garde Manger,” a super fancy French way of saying “cold food.” Having a busy family life here in Michigan, Toldo wanted to indulge her passion for all things food, yet stay […]