Fisun Ercan has never been stranger to bringing farms to tables, or to cooking whatever she could grow with her own two hands. From a childhood spent eating local in a small village near Izmir, Turkey to rooftop gardening over her own restaurant in Verdun, the chef has grown up and discovered her passions in what she calls ‘ingredient-based cooking’.
“Cooking isn’t about recipes. For me, it’s about ingredients and memories,” Ercan told Eater about her new cookbook and culinary memoir Racines.
“I didn’t want to just give recipes—the internet has I don’t know how many—but a philosophy of cooking, a way of living. I wrote these recipes as though I was beside the person who’s cooking, to let them know how it’s done, yes... but also with small ideas and stories.”
Published by KO Éditions, the 256-page text represents a confluence of three places in Ercan’s life: Her native land through her Turkish identity and cuisine, her adopted land of Quebec and its local ingredients, and the land she now both farms and calls home, Ferme Bika, an ancestral stone house converted into a farm-to-table restaurant in Saint-Blaise-sur-Richelieu of Montérégie.
“It’s about the whole transformation of my life,” Ercan explains. “From living in another part of the world to travelling (to Quebec), going back to my values again and discovering, rediscovering, what I used to have.”
The farm was part of a transition the chef had begun prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While she announced the closure of her Turkish restaurant Su in Verdun in 2020 only a few months after dining rooms were forced to close for the first time, it was simply the next logical step. Having already acquired Ferme Bika in 2018, from the chef’s perspective, a crisis had already begun in Montreal’s dining scene as early as 2016: Too many restaurants had opened and too few staff were available then as well.
“I had always wanted to go back to a farm-to-table model. I thought it could be better if we had a farm,” the chef recalls. “What the world is trying to achieve today (with eating locally) always came naturally to me. It was never a trend, it was necessary; whatever was available that season is what was cooked, and without wasting anything.”
In the book, readers will find knowledge and techniques accumulated from Ercan’s years in homes, restaurants and on farms she’s known in her life told through four seasons at Ferme Bika. Accompanied by photography by Sylvie Li, recipes go anywhere from kitchen building blocks like dandelion syrup and tomato paste preserves to dishes as simple as grilled asparagus with homemade yogurt and lemon, and as technical as “aphrodisiac” chicken breast with dried fruits, honey and a green coriander sauce (a Valentine’s Day special from Ercan’s days at Su).
It’s as if every second page, however, contains Turkish classics like karniyarik (stuffed eggplant), manti (dumplings), and izmir köfte (Smyrna meatballs) among many others. None of these, Ercan points out, require a specialized garde manger to cook them.
At the heart of each of these recipes is a philosophy grounded in eating locally and with as little waste as possible—something Ercan had shown passion for as a chef with a contribution to IKEA’s ScrapsBook, a cookbook for food scraps, in 2021.
“I believe it’s my responsibility to share this way of living, doing it through Quebec with local products, being responsible for the environment, for people, and everything around us,” she says.
Even with the release of the book, Ercan looks ahead to another spring, summer, and autumn season at the farm to serve menus of local ingredients in a farm-to-table setting, giving cooking classes, and offering an open invite to anyone who wishes to plunge their hands into Bika’s dirt.
Racines by Fisun Ercan is available at bookstores and online for $39.95. The book is currently only available in French.