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Chanterelle Country Inn and Cottages, Baddeck, Cape Breton

For chef Earlene Busch, growing up on a wheat and cattle ranch in Colorado meant growing up eating local and organically produced food-her family's own beef and garden produce as well as other local products. In summer, peaches, pears and plums from the western slope of the Rockies were bought from the back of a battered pickup truck.

During her freshman year at the University of Colorado, Earlene went on vacation with her family to Mexico, where she met Elwin Busch, a US Air Force pilot. They were married at the end of the semester; she finished her BA by going to school wherever they were based.

Tragically, her husband was killed in Vietnam. Earlene and her two daughters returned to Boulder where she went back to U of C, receiving a PhD in communications.

She spent a couple of years teaching at the university while getting her doctorate, then founded a small high-tech company called Circa Logic, where she was CEO for 20 years. After the technology was sold, with new-found freedom Earlene moved to Cape Breton-she'd fallen in love with "the fresh air, crystalline water and the serenity" after a trip to the Island to buy a bedroom suite.

The abundance of choice chanterelle mushrooms (Cape Breton chanterelles are shipped all over the world) also played a role: Earlene built a small accommodation property-the Chanterelle Country Inn and Cottages.

She was unable to readily find a cook for the restaurant, so decided to take on that role herself. She has taken courses at the Cook Street School of Fine Cooking, in Denver, and at the Culinary School of the Rockies, in Boulder; she apprenticed at FID, in Halifax.

In keeping with a buy local and small footprint strategy, Earlene includes the food source and the distance the food has travelled on her menus. For example, grains are from Speerville Mills, NB, 180 miles; lamb, chicken and eggs are from GlenRyan Farms, 45 miles; potatoes are from Dennis Laffan Farm, across the river.

Q What accomplishment are you most proud of?

A Representing Canada as a chef at Terra Madre (a biannual conference held in Italy, coordinated by the Slow Food organization.)

Q What’s your favourite ingredient?

A Simply put, any fresh herbs.

Q What tool can you not live without?

A My zester.

Q What is your favourite style of cooking?

A Local, unadorned food that uses very few ingredients.

Q Do you have any cooking tips you could share with us?

A Make stocks-brown stock, chicken, fish, lobster, crab, and vegetable. Nothing wasted, great flexibility and maximum flavour. Anytime a recipe calls for water, think of what could be substituted. For example, I substitute orange juice in a blueberry pie recipe.

Q Do you have a favourite cookbook?

A I like Cooks Illustrated (the books and the magazines) because it discusses how things work. For vegetables, From a Breton Garden by Josephine Araldo and Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher.

Q What do you like to do when not in the kitchen?

A I forage for edibles such as dandelions, wintergreen and mushrooms while my dog is taking me for a walk.

Q Your inn has a resident dog?

A Yes - Sir Guy, a 12-year-old Vizsla. He is known as the offical greeter. Once the season ends, he gets quite depressed for a couple weeks because there is no one around.

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