Posts Tagged ‘farms’

Plan Smart, Buy Local

October 26, 2012

When it comes to stocking a kitchen, more and more restaurants are seeing the value of buying their ingredients locally. Chefs enjoy working with these ingredients because they are able to create dishes that feel more authentic and accessible. Obviously, this is easier for restaurants that change their menus often anyway, but any restaurant can benefit from the use of locally grown ingredients.

While creating a menu with local ingredients can become difficult because of issues such as availability, seasonality, and affordability, there are ways to work around these problems and create dishes that inspire local clientele to see all the great food around them.

Why Buy Local?

There are multiple reasons for a restaurant to try buying some ingredients locally. First and foremost, buying locally means that the ingredients will not have to travel as far and, therefore, will be fresher when it reaches the kitchen. This gives the chef the opportunity to work with the best ingredients possible and create an even better dish. Also, the shorter shipping distance results in lower shipping costs and less harm to the environment than long-distance shipping of ingredients.

Finally, there is a certain sentimentality that accompanies creating business relationships with local farmers which appeals to restaurateurs and patrons alike. Restaurants can do a lot to help keep small local farms afloat and local patrons appreciate and respect that social consciousness.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Buying locally also presents some challenges that should be examined carefully. For one thing, chances are that buying from smaller farms and producers will possibly require more planning than using larger suppliers. The restaurant will likely need to spend some more time coordinating deliveries from multiple suppliers, and probably have to adjust some of their accounting principles to allow for using cash to pay for the locally grown items.

Also, it is possible that the cost for locally grown products will be higher than the alternative, but most chefs and restaurateurs feel that it is worth it for the higher quality product. For many it seems cost-preventative and daunting to adopt a policy of only using locally grown ingredients. In that case, it may be helpful to start by creating only one dish from local ingredients, and to build up from there.

Buying Smart

To make the change successful, there are a few things to keep in mind when buying local ingredients. First of all, it is important to remember to be flexible even if the restaurant does not often change the menu. If weather or delivery issues occur, there must be a backup plan. Also, for local ingredients to retain the value that comes from being fresh, they should be prepared, cooked, and served to order as much as possible.

To work around seasonality issues, different restaurants employ various techniques. Some only buy local ingredients that are available year round, like meat and dairy. A restaurant could also preserve local ingredients to be used throughout the year in various dishes and still bring a part of the local flavor to the table.