Using Scratch Ingredients Vs. Pre-Prepared Foods

Restaurant Kelly Liken
Eight years ago, when Kelly Liken opened her eponymous eatery in Vail, Colorado, the Culinary Institute of America grad wanted to make as much of her menu from scratch and as local as possible. She's done that and has been a three-time James Beard regional Best Chef nominee. The menu changes seasonally except for two favorites: the Rocky Mountain Elk Carpaccio with tabbouleh salad and mustard aïoli and the Potato Crusted Trout with caramelized Brussels sprout leaves, golden raisins and toasted pecans.
Regina Pizzeria
Located in the North End, Boston's oldest residential neighborhood, Regina Pizzeria has served pies since 1926. The pizza shop was acquired 20 years later by the Polcari family, which continues to operate it. The restaurant's parent, Boston Restaurant Association, now has 18 pizzerias—15 of which are quick-service mall sites—and three Polcari Italian restaurants. The stores still make pizzas fresh every day but now source some items that previously were made on site, says Anthony Buccieri, chief operating officer.
What led to your method of cooking and sourcing ingredients?
It's the way I've always done it. We serve seasonal American cuisine with almost all the ingredients coming from Colorado. The changing menu depends on what is in season, mostly within 100 miles. When I first came here, I became very aware of what grows in the [Vail] Valley during different seasons. It's very exciting.
We used to do our sausage and meatballs in our commissary, but with current laws, we would need to have someone on (the) premises from the Agriculture Department. It became too cumbersome. Now we get some ingredients and slice them ourselves, and others are prepared to our specifications.
What are its benefits and disadvantages?

I really don't see any downside. Customers are surprised how much is locally grown. It's an education about what's in Colorado. The fresh ingredients keep me creative. Yes, it can be more expensive, but you have to build that into your business plan. And you have to know your customers. We are right in the middle of Vail Village, and people appreciate and will spend more for fine dining. 

It's easier, helps keeps costs in line and is wonderful for consistency. The guest gets the same great experience every time. For instance Capital Meats (now Fontanini) in Chicago has been [making] sausage and meatballs for us from our recipes for 35 years. We take the rope sausage, defrost it and cook it in our pizza ovens. We defrost the [meatball] meat, add what we need to and cook it. We do that every day.

Are there any changes you've had to make?

Not really. When you depend on the ingredients that are available, you have to be on your toes. But we don't do everything ourselves. I do buy our bread that's handcrafted by a local artisan baker—I can't do it as well—and our salumi is from a local artisan, but we do make our own charcuterie. Our trout is from a [fish] farm in Idaho, right in the Snake River [and] at times we source some other ingredients from outside Colorado.

We've made changes over the years, but not to the recipes. We still make our dough fresh at our central commissary, and it ages for three to six days. We chop some vegetables and the garlic. We go to California every year for our tomatoes; they pick the crop and can it, all in one day, and ship several times a year. The mozzarella cheese is made in New York, and is a low-moisture, full cream cheese so we don't have to add oil.