Chef Aaron Horsewood, Idaho native and owner of Horsewood Catering, is leaving a lasting legacy in the Boise food community. Orchestrating with the local community farms, he creates a symphony of flavorful, nourishing food for any event he caters. It’s easy to see that Chef Aaron has found his place in the world, cooking with love, a passion that you can see in his eyes, taste and smell in his food, hear in his voice, and feel in a handshake filled with gratitude to be able to spread love to others through cooking.
Aaron spent his early childhood in the kitchen with his grandmother, who descended from a line of chefs in the region of Castile Spain. “She is my hero; she inspired me to do this from the beginning.” His favorite moments growing up were the mornings spent making tortillas with Grandma Mary in the remote Frank Church Wilderness for the Native American hunters, including his grandfather, while she sang beautiful Spanish lullabies. These experiences taught him the perfect melding of two cultures, the Castilians who had brought the farm to the table for hundreds of years, and Native Americans who hunted and gathered, both living off the land and working together with nature to feed their families.
Further inspiration came from his first experiences in the professional kitchen, including his time with the late Chef Ray DiLulo at the former Emilio’s restaurant at the Grove Hotel. Chef DiLulo suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease and survived nearly five years despite a 6-month prognosis which he attributed to learning to eat for his health. This valuable lesson stuck with Chef Aaron who now says, “I want to make sure that with whatever food we bring to the table, we’re blessing your body.”
Inspired by early experiences and filled with hopes and dreams for more, Chef Aaron at just 17 years old, ventured out into the world, hitchhiking and cooking his way to Manhattan with three friends. Living on the city streets soon led him to “the restaurant that sparked my career” in Little Italy where he was taken under the wings of an Italian Chef who saw promise in the starving young Idahoan. Fast forward six and a half years and several cooking experiences later, Chef Aaron recalls another pivotal and surreal moment on Christmas Eve in Scottsdale, AZ. As a personal chef for musician Steve Knicks, he found himself, a “small town kid from middle of nowhere Idaho,” sitting on a patio listening to the legendary members of Fleetwood Mac singing simple Christmas carols as their grandchildren played. It really opened him up to see that “at the end of the day, we’re all just people” and that “food brings us all together.” It also made him realize that his grandparents, with all the love, hard work and dedication became the driving force that gave direction to his life.
Despite his early successes, Chef Aaron began feeling the “call of the mountains” and knew he was losing that part of himself. So in 2007, he returned to Boise as the executive chef for the Red Feather/Bittercreek Restaurants, at a time when founder Dave Krick of the 8th Street Market was helping turn the wheels of the food industry towards a ‘farm to table’ concept, which was in its infancy in the community. Chef Aaron was happy to be back home, joining with other chefs to influence the way Boise approaches food. But the long hours as a restaurant chef kept him away from something he valued even more than food, “My family,” or “familia” as he’d been taught by his grandmother. Taking a pivotal shift in his life and career, Chef Aaron moved to Caldwell, Idaho, where he began focusing his efforts on a family-run business, Horsewood Catering, that could provide the community with farm-to-table meals while affording him precious time with his family. Knowing that his venture to feed large groups of people in a farm-to-table style would be a challenge, Aaron began forging relationships with the local small farms that surrounded him.
Armed with an array of culinary experiences and knowledge and strong relationships with his farming neighbors, Chef Aaron brought his vision to life with the influences of his cultural upbringing. Aaron’s approach embodies the Native Americans who roamed, hunted and fished in the Idaho wilderness and Castilian farming traditions.
Creating such a unique company has not come without failures and roadblocks that are inevitable to any journey, especially in the restaurant industry. Aaron emphasized, “nothing shall be easy;” that’s our motto in the kitchen. “Everything we do is hard work, but in that work there is a lot of love.” Following his motto with the emphasis on emotion, he asks his clients to share their stories, including memories of foods that bring them back to their childhood and their own culture and heritage. “Food is love, and if we tell the story at the beginning of the relationship, then we can write the food around that story.” He then captures the experience in a completely customized farm-to-table menu. And he’s always trying something new, infusing local foods with global flavors and creative presentations. Meals can range from tri-tip and veggies sandwiches encased in charcoal-infused bread and a salad kabob to more elaborate and surprisingly delicious combinations such as pan-roasted chicken with reverse-smoked bacon topped with crab mousse upon butter poached brioche.
Aaron’s passion for cooking has rubbed off on his two children despite his initial attempts to deter them from what he knew to be a grueling career path after fighting his own battles with homelessness and substance abuse. His most rewarding moment in his career has been “to watch their passion bloom.” His eldest son Dakota is starting to take over operations of the catering company and has been inspiring at-risk youth as a culinary teacher at Elevate Academy, while his daughter started her own baking company and bakes breads from seeds and grains that she hand-forages and grinds herself. “This valley is in for a treat,” Aaron said fondly in reference to his daughter Hailey, adding “she’s going to be an incredible chef.” He also has the pleasure of working alongside his wife who is now his business partner after leaving the medical field. “I’m just a fortunate man.” Aaron’s voice trembled and his eyes watered as he shared how he was “so blessed to be afforded this opportunity” and thankful for the support of his family along his journey living out his dream.
As for where Chef Aaron’s future is headed, he reflects back on the hardships in his life and aspires to give back to the community, supporting kids that are struggling and missing love and support in their lives. His hopes and dreams are to “build my own gardens to help more children in the valley that are struggling that are broken and teach them the farm-to-table experience.” But to make it all work, he recognizes that “we’re going to have to have lots of people that are like-minded to make this happen.”
When Aaron is not cooking or working closely with the community, he escapes back to his roots in the great outdoors, noting “ninety percent of the time I’m in the woods.” His favorite place of escape is Island Park and West Yellowstone because of the fishing and the serenity. He also enjoys catering events with beautiful mountain backdrops like Stanley Idaho. Aaron loves food that has a small-town feel - for instance, Sonoran food from street vendors in Rocky Point because it feels “close to their hearts.” But if there is any place that meals originate entirely from that special place, it is at Chef Aaron’s Horsewood.
To learn more about Chef Aaron Horsewood and Horsewood Catering, please visit: