For those who are passionate about all things culinary, a little piece of heaven on earth is about to become a reality.
Imagine traveling to the beautiful wilderness of the Northern Arizona high desert, bumping along a series of dusty dirt roads in the middle of the vast Prescott National Forest, opening and closing gates as you go. Eventually, you reach a massive stone and wrought-iron gate, where a modest metal sign indicates you’ve reached TERRA Farm + Manor.
The land here was originally a pre-Hopi settlement that became a homestead at the turn of the century. Now, it’s about to be launched as a gastronomic mecca: part working farm, part vineyard, part rustic yet elegant guest manor, and part cooking school.
It is the vision of Chef James Porter, an Arizona native (born in Page) who embraced the culinary world even when he was back in high school. “I just loved it,” he says. “I loved that lifestyle. I love working hard, eating and drinking a lot of wine.”
Porter at TERRA Farm + Manor
Porter is a classically trained chef who began his formal training at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, but honed his skills when he was accepted to the famed Greenbrier Culinary Apprenticeship Program founded in the late 1950s by Hermann Rusch at The Greenbrier, a legendary centuries-old resort in West Virginia. Rusch himself was an apprentice of the renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier.
In his 20-plus-year career in the restaurant business, Porter literally traveled from sea to shining sea, working in prestigious restaurants in locations that included Florida, New Jersey, California and Oregon. When he decided it was time to open his own establishment, however, he returned to his Arizona roots, first opening Tapino Kitchen & Wine Bar and later Petite Maison, both in Scottsdale.
He is setting out to provide what he believes is the ultimate food-person destination in the United States through TERRA, and it’s not an undertaking he has taken lightly.
For the past several years, working with a business partner as well as his wife Wendy, Porter has been working diligently to, as he puts it, “paint a masterpiece.” He is setting out to provide what he believes is the ultimate food-person destination in the United States through TERRA, and it’s not an undertaking he has taken lightly. Early reports indicated a fall 2017 opening; now he’s looking at early fall 2018. The timing doesn’t faze him. “Look how long it took to build the Taj Mahal,” he jokingly points out.
“This is the ultimate project I’ve ever gotten involved with,” Porter continues. “For the first time in my life, instead of racing to get a restaurant open because I had to pay the light bills this is more about taking our time and doing it right, thinking about every component of it. This will check all the boxes of anybody who is passionate about food and totally embraces the hospitality industry, from accommodation and dining and where your food comes from to locavore activism and truth in quality.”
Those who register for each five-day program will be given directions to the ultra-secluded location. They will be met at the manor with monogrammed chef’s coats in anticipation of a daily immersion into the world of a particular cuisine or technique, led by world-class master chefs, farmers, and winemakers from all over the country.
A guest room at TERRA Farm + Manor
Much thought has gone into making this a uniquely Arizona experience in a stunning, luxurious setting. The guestrooms are well appointed and the manor can accommodate 16 to 18 people. Wall tiles were handmade in Utah; local art adorns the walls; tablecloths were loomed with local Arizona cotton and place settings were hand-fabricated by a Phoenix potter.
When it comes to cooking, TERRA is a culinary Disneyworld. There’s a wood-fired pizza oven, an outdoor spit, underground cooking, a wood-fired French stove, a colonial cast-iron cooking pit, and an underground charcuterie and curing room. The TERRA Culinary Studio features a state-of-the-art Wolf Sub-Zero kitchen, sous vide equipment, and large flat-screen instructional monitors.
The farm and manor are run by a massive solar grid and backup generators. Chefs and their “students” will have nothing but the very best to work with, from farm-raised meats and eggs—think Wagyu and Angus cattle, Iberian black-foot pigs (yes, the resulting product will be true Spanish Iberico hams), Mangalitsa pigs and French Bresse chickens—to 10 acres of organic vegetables and a two-acre vineyard.
The all-inclusive epicurean experience at TERRA will consist of three meals specific to guests’ individual tastes; nightly cocktail receptions; customized cooking, wine and farming classes; special engagements and excursions designed to highlight the best Northern Arizona has to offer; and a wide variety of outdoor activities. Porter says they initially will operate 10 weeks in the spring 10 weeks in the fall, and TERRA will also be available for private corporate events, destination weddings, and family getaways.
“The moment you decide to participate,” says Porter, “all sorts of magic will happen. We will transport you to 100 acres of pure relaxation and culinary passion. It is nirvana for someone who loves to cook. This will be a Zen moment for someone who is truly a food and beverage enthusiast and is looking for an experience.”
LAST BOOK YOU READ?
I’m more about magazines and periodicals. The last one was probably Yam Magazine, which comes out quarterly.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL…
A pig. I would be an Iberian black-foot pig. (Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered!)
FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?
FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOT?
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
Marco Pierre White.
MORNING OR NIGHT PERSON?
There are 24 hours in a day, and I take advantage of every single one of them. I’m usually up by 5:30-6 every morning and go to bed at about 1 a.m.
WHAT ANNOYS YOU MOST?
Lack of professionalism.
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF:
Guts, spine, determined.
IF YOU COULD TRADE LIVES WITH ANYONE FOR A DAY, WHO WOULD IT BE?
WHAT FOOD TREND DO YOU JUST NOT GET?
Farm to table. It’s quite funny, really, because quite honestly, everything comes from the farm to the table. That’s like saying there’s an “air to lungs movement!”
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW?
48 Grams. I almost cried at the end.
COFFEE OR TEA?
Definitely coffee. I’ll drink it any time of the day. My grandfather sold Folgers coffee for 50 years for Proctor & Gamble. When my mother was breastfeeding me I probably was sipping coffee, too!
SUNSET OR SUNRISE?
Sunrise—who doesn’t enjoy drinking Champagne at sunrise?
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU CONSIDER ICONIC?
The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. It’s been around for 200 years, and it’s where I did my apprenticeship.