Situated in Nantucket Island’s historic downtown district, American Seasons restaurant is known for its hyper-fresh ingredients and seasonal culinary dishes.
“At American Seasons restaurant, we’ve had a garden for 10 years. My wife, Orla Murphy, loves to grow plants and vegetables, so it was a natural occurrence that happened for our business,” says Chef Michael LaScola.
But should the restaurant garden run out of homegrown produce, the chef’s backup plan is to use small, local Nantucket farms and producers to supplement his supply.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s culinary forecast, hyper-local restaurant gardens, locally grown produce, and environmental sustainability are among the top 10 most popular themes for 2013.
Not far from Nantucket, another innovative restaurant garden thrives. A block off the beach, Dauphin Grille in Asbury Park, New Jersey, offers patrons sustainable, farm-to-fork dishes in a comfortable and relaxed bistro atmosphere.
“With the help of friends and employees, I established a 2,000-sq.-ft. garden two years ago,” says Marilyn Schlossbach, owner and executive chef of Dauphin Grille. “I realized I wanted more flexibility in sourcing produce to be able to make creative, seasonal changes to the restaurant’s menu.”
Schlossbach says before the garden was put in place, the restaurant had participated in the Jersey Fresh program that helps farmer’s alert consumers about the availability of fresh produce grown in New Jersey.
There are community-building aspects as well. Not only do restaurant gardens supply fresh produce to chefs, they also provide many teachable moments to youth in the area.
As Chef LaScola pointed out, “We support the garden at the local school through the Sustainable Nantucket organization by funding growing beds. The hope is that our young chefs and students on Nantucket will see the positive flavor benefits of locally grown food.”
Cultivating the next generation of gardeners with local hands-on programs can teach children the joys and rewards of planting, tending, and eating fresh produce. Plus, getting children outside for lots of fresh air and learning new skills is an additional benefit.
“We created an educational space for local youth to learn about gardening and nutrient-rich foods,” says Schlossbach. “I work with staff and youth from the Boys and Girls Club and Interfaith Neighbors, and anyone else who wants to play in the dirt, to tend the garden. It’s a real community effort.”