Data: What You Don’t Know Can Cost You
Executive Chef Edward Gray describes his experience with farm-to-table foods and its greater impact on the surrounding culture.
What influences how shoppers select their produce purchases? Chances are the average shopper is seldom aware of the fresh products seasonally available in their area. Research shows that millennials are instead more likely influenced by habit, recipe ideas and preparation time while most shoppers have a specific list of needed produce before they enter the grocery store (1). With most produce provided year-round, shoppers are often unaware of the benefits of branching out to seasonally available foods.
This was reflected in the results of a recent survey, in which the surveyed population believed the local availability of the listed crops to be limited between the months of June and September. Their perception, of course, differing greatly from the actual harvest dates which ranged over several months, some even available all year.
The convenience of domestic and international produce transport has aided in the accessibility of healthier foods, however it often leaves us out of touch with our own local environment.
Recent “locovores” have discovered the advantages of eating local produce, often affirming the improved flavor and added nutritional value of produce picked and consumed at the optimal time. Similar farm-to-table initiatives by restaurants have advocated the positive effects of local produce, not only for our health but also for the local economy as this movement rewards nearby farmers for their diligence. These commonly cited examples provide enough incentive to “eat local.” Even so, Executive Chef Edward Gray from Southern California suggests the benefits reach even further.
Chef Edward’s experience implementing farm-to-table foods.
Chef Edward began his career 18 years ago when the farm-to-table movement was barely a blip on the horizon. As a relatively new chef he found himself taking on the ambitious challenge of pioneering an all organic menu at a recently-opened restaurant in New York City. At the time, all organic menus were rare and the produce was costly. Still Chef Edward was exhilarated by the possibilities. “As a chef you have a responsibility to teach your guests about their food, from the way it should look and taste to the nutrition,” he says. This experience was influential in provoking the same insightful observations as many “locovores” propose today. He found that the organic and local produce was so ripe with flavor that he was adding less salt and sugar to his recipes.
Chef Edward has since deepened his experience in various locations from private yachts to 5-star resorts, often spearheading the farm-to-table initiatives at these facilities. In fact, incorporating farm-to-table foods evolved into an opportunity for him to educate himself and his guests. When certain types of produce are not in season Chef Edward reaches out to local farmers to explore alternatives. “Farmers have a passion for what they grow. Pairing that with a chef’s passion for culinary is extremely profitable,” he says. In addition to prompting culinary artistry, this collaboration exposes guests to new food types, nutritional options, and the farmer’s workmanship. The results have been evident.
“Farmers have a passion for what they grow. Pairing that with a chef’s passion for culinary art is extremely profitable.”
Beyond the kitchen.
As culinary artists like Chef Edward continue to encourage the consumption local foods, so has the demand for local produce increased for the end consumer. People are starting to ask more questions about the food they eat and where it comes from. For these individuals, purchasing local foods is a logical next step. One study indicated that the amount of supermarket shoppers who visit farmers markets increased by 50% in the year 2015 alone (1). This growing demand creates an exciting atmosphere for the field of agriculture. With so many avenues promoting food knowledge and healthy living, farms who hope to connect with the end consumer have an attentive audience.