I was recently asked my opinion of Farmers Markets and how they relate to restaurants and the demand that our volume creates as well as the appetite of our customers. First of all, I am a huge fan of what Farmers Markets bring to a community, a connection to the land that reaches far beyond the majestic, coast-lined landscapes we are so well know for and blessed to call home. The relationships and the appreciation fostered with the farmers who truly plant in faith, prayerfully and patiently coax, laboriously harvest and faithfully haul to market the bounty of their efforts. It is a steadfast reminder of the dependance we have on our earth and why we should go to greater lengths to care for it. And the populace a farmers market brings together to stroll, taste, smell and feel the riches the earth has offered is a reminder of a simpler time. It’s where I go to enjoy the seasons on full parade and find the inspiration to transform beautiful ingredients into magnificent meals. As one season ends and another begins, I love to watch the colors of the tabletops change like a kaleidoscope turning in the sun. Occasionally finding a new treasure or often reminded of an heirloom, all but forgotten from the previous year. I always find farmers markets a true testament to the creativity of God. Farmers markets are a tool for intercity families to teach children where food comes from, what it means to buy local and broaden their palate for fresh, healthy ingredients. They serve as social gatherings for others to catch up with old friends or to meet new ones, but most importantly they are place of commerce.
Like most Chefs, I seek locally farmed produce, sustainably and humanely raised meats, seafood and poultry. Do I hit the markets each week skipping along, whistling a tune and loading my basket with the ingredients I need to serve my customers? No, it would not be feasible for me to traipse through the market buying up enough produce to last the restaurant an entire week. Farmers markets provide a plateau for smaller farmers and ranchers to showcase the select crops that work well for their plot of land and to sell their crops to the general public. I am incredibly fortunate as the Chef of Tarpy’s Roadhouse to have tremendous relationships with some small farms who bring to my back door, fresh out of the dirt produce several times a week. I also work with some not so small farms that provide me with outstanding products that come to me via my local distributors, who gather produce from multiple local sources. On top of that I also have a 1/4 acre garden on property that provides the restaurant a select crop with each season. Do our customers demand produce from the farmers market in our restaurants? To that I say Yes and No, todays diner demands the very best, seasonal, local and sustainable products available, and they have become acute at understanding the seasons and what should be on the plate and what should not. I don’t believe the issue is whether or not it was purchased at a farmers market or the farmer brought it to us. In the same way a person chooses to shop at the farmers market rather than the Superlux Grocery Store, educated diners seek out restaurants doing the very best with the very best available.