Asheville, North Carolina
Chef/Owner: John Fleer
Pastry chef: Kaley Laird
How they do it: “It’s not actually a phrase that we use to describe our restaurant because it is very simply the right way to cook,” John Fleer, chef and owner, says of the “farm-to-table” movement. “Any restaurant is part of a web of relationships. The broader and closer your relationships are, the stronger your web. Most of our farmers, makers, and foragers all operate within 30 miles of us.” All in all, Fleer finds himself juggling 30 to 40 suppliers, rather than just the two or three another non-farm-to-table restaurant might. “The reward is worth the complexity,” he says.
Steal it: Go all in with local sources. Think of your previous sources only as backups.
New York City
Owners: Dan Barber, David Barber, and Laureen Barber
Chef: Dan Barber
Pastry chef: Joel de la Cruz
How they do it: As the chef and owner of one of the restaurants that jump-started the movement, Dan Barber sees Blue Hill and farm-to-table today as a catalyst for larger conversations. “Now that we’ve sparked a culture that cares more about food—good food, that is—we can dig deeper into these issues and actually change how our food is grown,” he says.
Steal it: Talk to farmers, Barber says. “The best way to support their work is to ask questions.”
Owners: Chad Little and Leonard Hollander
Chef: Leonard Hollander
How they do it: An element of the restaurant since the beginning, Arbor’s urban farm provides about 35 percent of the restaurant’s produce needs during growing season. But Chef Leonard Hollander mainly uses the third-acre farm to grow difficult-to-transport, expensive, and hard-to-find produce like scarlet frills mustard and green coriander. Growing his own herbs allows Hollander to take advantage of the plants at every stage of its growth, from seed to flower.
Steal it: For the aspiring gardener-chef: vet your soil provider. Hollander has had the best results with simple, high-quality compost.
Chef/owner: Devin Finigan
How they do it: Pickling everything from red onion to peaches, Chef Devin Finigan doesn’t let the challenges of local sourcing get her down. “Farm-to-table to me means caring about the quality of food I serve at Aragosta, as well as making relationships with my farmers and fishermen so I am serving the freshest ingredient possible,” she says.
Steal it: Why not fruit? Some of Finigan’s favorite pickling adventures have been with peaches, strawberries, and blueberries, using them in cocktails and dishes.
Owners: Spike Gjerde, Amy Gjerde, and Corey Polyoka
Chef: Spike Gjerde
Pastry chef: Rachel Theisen
How they do it: Instead of focusing on “farm-to-table,” per say, the folks at Woodberry are trying to create a self-sustaining regional food system by purchasing what returns maximum value back to their growers. The restaurant has set up Woodberry Pantry, a food processing facility where all its preserving takes place—making more than 70 products including its signature Snake Oil hot sauce from fish peppers—to help the restaurant survive during winter months and contribute to the agricultural diversity of the region.
Steal it: If you could convince farmers to grow anything—like Chef Spike Gjerde did with his fish peppers—what would it be?
Owners: Kacey Montgomery and Shannon Lincoln
Chef: Aaron Wermerskirchen
Pastry chef: Weston Wicks
How they do it: By sourcing Idaho-grown and -made ingredients and beverages, Juniper develops a menu that pays homage to its region. But with distribution and pricing constantly challenging staff, co-owner Kacey Montgomery reminds himself that the hyper-local movement is about more than food. “Farm-to-table is about building relationships, dependability, and trust with our local community,” he says.
Steal it: Keep relationships with farmers and community the No. 1 priority.
Owner: Aaron Adams
Chef: Kei Ohdera
Pastry chef: Timothy Dearing
How they do it: Instead of miles-radius, Chef Kei Ohdera measures his sourcing in time: the amount of time it takes a vegetable or fruit to get from the ground to the restaurant. “Very often, we are cooking with ingredients that were still in the ground or on the vine that morning,” he says. He creates agreements with his farmers, so they know what the restaurant plans to buy and how much throughout the season. And he is a big fan of preservation, especially when attempting to add diversity and depth of flavor to dishes in the winter months.
Steal it: Whey-fermented vegetables. That’s what Ohdera is playing with these days. It leaves vegetables salty with an estery fruit quality to them.
Princeton, New Jersey
Owners: Jim Nawn, Fenwick Hospitality Group
Chef: Mitresh Saraiya
Pastry chef: Liz Sale
How they do it: Even the restaurant’s name says ‘farmer.’ In Latin, that is. Just a short four miles from Agricola, one can find the 112-acre Great Road Farm—the restaurant’s own organic farm—in Skillman, New Jersey. Half of the farm’s acres remain wild and wooded, while half are reserved for growing crops to supply the restaurant.
Steal it: “Flavor will balance the costs,” says Jim Nawn, owner. And local tastes better.
Chef/Owner: Juan Carlos Récamier
How they do it: Starting from farmers markets itself, Ceviche House has always had an intimate relationship with San Diego farmers and fishermen and relies on them heavily to source everything from the serrano chilies to yellowtail fish on the menu. Juan Carlos Recamier, chef and owner, brings together his inspired Mexican seafood with help from local purveyors who source from family farms, too, and a pilot program he launched with San Diego Food System Alliance to bring in local fish from local boats.
Steal it: Take the time to get to know your farmers and fishermen.
Kinston, North Carolina
Owners: Vivian Howard and Ben Knight
Chef: Vivian Howard
Pastry chef: Kim Adams
How they do it: Sourcing from around 20 local purveyors in eastern North Carolina, where there are four distinct seasons, has not been easy—“diners don't really get excited about roots and sprouts the same way they do about tomatoes and sweet corn,” chef/owner Vivian Howard says, noting the differences between seasons—but farm-to-table is the mantra for both the restaurant and Howard’s PBS TV show, “A Chef’s Life,” as is Howard’s commitment to exalting the food traditions of this small Southern community.
Steal it: Source as much local as works for you.