Inside a True 'Farm-to-Table' Restaurant
The term “farm-to-table” is overused to the point of cliché. And with more and more restaurants purchasing produce from small farms, it can begin to feel like, in a certain school of cooking, chefs working directly with farmers is the norm. But this video from Copenhagen's MAD Symposium about the exclusive relationship between the Los Gatos, Calif. restaurant Manresa and the nearby Love Apple Farms shows that far more goes into this sort of operation than a casual observer—or diner—might suspect.
Unlike Roy Choi’s combative talk on hunger, chef David Kinch and farmer Cynthia Sandberg’s presentation sounds far more like a trade conference discussion. So if you aren’t a restaurateur or a would-be farmer, the how-to bit of this video, which is more focused on economics and staffing than growing food, won't be all that interesting.
But hearing Kinch talk about the culinary advantages of having a biodynamic farm 10 minutes away from the kitchen is fascinating. “I can access to all stages of plants during its various growth,” he says. “Roots, shoots, mature and immature leaves, seeds, stems, flowers,” much of which is commercially unavailable.
Getting to a point where Kinch’s kitchen has just the right flowers and roots and tubers on any given day has taken a fair amount of trial and error, however. Sandberg says the farm has been waylaid by disease, deer, mice, frosts, pests, and gophers over the years.
And other times, missteps in planning create problems of both excess and scarcity.
“There were periods in the beginning where we grew way to much of stuff,” says Kinch. “Anyone who has grown squash knows that I’m talking about.” Conversely, Sandberg says “Its tough to make sure he has beets every harvest 52 weeks out of the year.”
Having Love Apple grow produce exclusively for Manresa may help differentiate both business and make for some good PR, as they point out in the more service-y part of the talk. But there are bigger ideas at play too that Kinch enumerates: “The closed circle, the waste, the composting that comes back, the seed saving operations, the collaboration of planting crops.”