Filed Under: Livestock

Do As They Say, Not As They Do…

The lead article in the New York Times’ Dining Out section pulls the rug out from under The Chef Collaborative’s (CC) rhetoric about the importance of locally grown produce from small-scale farmers and other CC issues.

Seems CC’s celebrity chefs are big customers of one of America’s fanciest and most scientifically oriented farms, “The Chefs Garden” in Huron, Ohio. Many well-known CC members are quick to bypass the small, local farms they preach about and head straight to Ohio for such far-flung specialty foods as black Peruvian mint and yellow dandelion greens from the Alsace.

Here’s a comparison of Chefs Collaborative rhetoric verses reality:

What CC members say:
Ed Doyle, CC member and executive chef at the Seaport Hotel in Boston: “We go to local sources not only because we get better produce but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s important to sustain the agribusiness in the area, keep the money in the community‚Ķ”

Steve Johnson, CC member and chef/owner of the Blue Room: “It’s clear that buying locally grown, fresh produce is going to result in more flavor in the dishes that they prepare for the customers. Many of our customers are aware of this. We promote it.”

What CC members do:
The Times reports CC member Thomas Keller travels from California’s Napa Valley, a premium-growing region in its own right, to buy his vegetables. Ditto for high-profile Manhattan CC members Georges Vongerichten and Alain Ducasse, who bypass many small New York state farmers and greenmarkets for the bounty of Ohio.

What CC members say:
Nora Pouillon, CC member and owner/chef of Nora: “When you see these perfect apples or fruits, not one little bug bite on them, all the same color, all pink, you should be worried. If it’s perfect, it has become perfect because the farmer sprayed it with chemicals.”

Tim Wood, CC member from Alberta, Canada: “What are we doing here? We want food that is ripe, perfect, out of season? And cheap? We ask too much.”

What CC members do:
According to the Times, CC member Alain Ducasse demands absolutely perfect “one-inch round turnips.” Farmer-technicians in white lab coats then hand harvest only one-inch specimens, as ordered.

CC member/spokesman Charlie Trotter, of the Chicago restaurant bearing his name, was “convinced mesclun (lettuce) was passe” and worked with Chef’s Garden to develop greens with miniature leaves, so-called “microgreens.” “They came in with clipboards and tested and tasted,” a farm spokesman says of Trotter and his staff.

As the Times writes: “And every one (vegetable) is grown with such scientific precision and artistic temperament that what comes from it is something a home cook, even one with a garden out back, would never see.”

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