Fans of the Netflix original “Chef’s Table” may remember the episode from the first season where owner of Michelin star restaurant Blue Hill’s Dan Barber decided to utilize the surplus order of asparagus for all menu items one night. Perhaps if the surplus order had been zucchini, corn, or another much more versatile ingredient, it would have been more of a success. However, the intention was still a very good one – eat as harmoniously as you can with mother nature. It is better for the environment, your local farmers, and ultimately your pocket if your business depends on very high-quality and fresh produce items. Your restaurant does not have to be a Michelin-caliber restaurant to win at the sustainable eat local game either.
There are ways you can start transitioning your food business to focus on locally-sourced ingredients that are in season. The result could be pretty nice: sweeter and juicier tomatoes than those picked when green tomatoes coming from Mexico, a more creative seasonally-inspired menu that keeps customers inspired to come back and try new menu features, reasons to support your local community food workers, and saving you money on top-notch quality ingredients. Chef Gordon Ramsey already stands by the shift for the hospitality industry to go seasonal en masse. Here are some reasons we hope to inspire your food businesses to do the same.
Food mindfulness is here to stay.
People are deciding the sources of their food is an important decision they make for themselves every day. Once a person prioritizes the sources of his/her food, it is rare for them to go back to eating Campbell’s canned soup and frozen TV dinners every day. Swim with the current by giving consumers what they want. For those who have had fresh tomatoes straight from the vine may understand what it means to have your palate exposed to the excellence nature intended to have fresh food taste. Many people are realizing the cultural and holistic connection to food is something they would like to regularly have access to. For others who are more of the “eat to survive” type eaters, they still care about what type of food they are putting in their body. The industry is responsible for setting trends in the right direction. Here at BlueCart, we would love to witness a hospitality industry in which the farm-to-table experience is a normalized one.
Seasonal foods stimulate your creativity.
You don’t have to do what food genius Dan Barber or other Michelin star chefs do with seasonal ingredients. Even Dan Barber couldn’t pull off the asparagus ice cream. But as experimental cuisine is becoming more appreciated by gen Xers and especially millennials, who are all self proclaimed “Foodies” on their Tinder profiles, seasonal foods are the best ingredients for trying out new combinations. Fresh is always better. Fresh is great for pickling, canning, freezing and other techniques that will allow you to include “House pickled/canned/…” in front of your item on your menu. These are great tips for generating fancy dish names while also being integrous to your clientele.
It is valid to assume the seasonal food movement has evolved to be romanticized by members of affluent society and as a result, some producers have increased the costs for local food (it’s counter-intuitive in many ways, I know). That is one of the general reasons why buying produce from urban farmers markets is usually not cheaper. However, the hospitality industry does not have to involve buying from farmers markets. The “gentrification tax”, as we could call it, could be bypassed by stakeholders in the hospitality industry who will provide farmers ongoing business with bulk volume orders.
The common association of farm to table food is upscale but it does not have to be. Ever tried to buy kiwis from Chile in the winter time? They are expensive, less tasty, and just overall not worth it. If you do enough research, go through the local producers in your area or perhaps your BlueCart suppliers list, you might find deals that are comparable to mainstream commercial food supplier packages. Some farmers may have just had a good yield and even if the difference is slightly more expensive, the quality and taste of good ingredients might be worth it to you and the customers at your business. The most rewarding consequence in my opinion? The opportunity to contribute to the livelihood of a local producer is priceless for your own conscience and for your community.
There are a plethora of reasons why “seasonalization” should be the standard for food businesses, as Chef Ramsey believes. It is a commitment to maintain the standard for your food business as it requires your team to work with challenging ingredients that might be unfamiliar to your cuisine. But the journey can be fun, not grueling when you know you’re contributing to the best version of the food industry that is potentially feasible for the times we live in.