Farm to Table Restaurants
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“I also think that working with whole animals helps us be more connected to our food. When meat comes in boxes, it’s easy to start thinking of the meat as a ‘product’ instead of something that came from a sentient being. I think working with whole animals evokes a greater respect for the animal.”
As farmers offer food that is available at a particular time of year, chefs provide seasonal menus to take advantage of the bounty. “We prepare a seasonally driven menu because it is a better way to eat,” Hooper says. “Our patrons love the changing menu. In this modern world, most of our daily activities are divorced from nature and the seasons. I think people crave a connection with things that are real, which is why seasonal menus are becoming more and more popular.”
Connecting farmers, chefs and consumers
In this more direct production and business model, farmers often deliver their products themselves and provide food at the height of its flavor. Baker says he can afford to keep animals on the farm longer since he directly provides the product to his 15 local restaurants. “It is important to me to interface with my chefs,” he says. “If there is a problem with packaging, quantities or butchering, I can make changes. I partner with my chefs. If they run out of something on a Sunday afternoon, I stop what I’m doing and run them what they need.”
Hooper says that dedicating space and labor for whole-animal cooking allows him more opportunities to work with local farmers. “I like to talk to the farmers I’m buying from, or even better, go to the farms and see what is happening,” Hooper says.
When consumers stay connected to their food sources, they are able to enjoy safe, tasty and high-quality food. Growers stay connected to the land and the seasons, and they are able to provide food at the height of its flavor. It’s not a huge stretch nowadays for people to enjoy the meat and produce at a favorite local restaurant that comes from a farm only a few miles away. And if they close their eyes, maybe they can taste a hint of clover and summer breezes.
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