Great trend in the food business: Chefs-farmers meet-up


A welcome new trend in the food business is the increasing collaboration between food entrepreneurs and farmers, especially those producing organic crops. 

Margarita Fores, a respected name in the culinary arts and restaurant industry, shares her advocacy of using organic produce and supporting local farmers.

“I feel the need to convince others of the benefits of choosing organic, and at the same time have lot of produce that diners can choose from in our restaurant menu,” referring to her latest venture, called Grace Park in One Rockwell.

Fores  has been networking as well with the Organic Produce Farmers, producers and purveyors from around the Philippines, especially from Negros Occidental, Bukidnon, Tagaytay, Batangas and Laguna.  She has compiled a list of farmer-suppliers which she makes available to other chefs and restaurant owners.  

Fores has committed to sourcing the produce herself.  She would personally check out the selections of the greens in a Batangas farm.

For her, the tomatoes in Bukidnon are comparable to those imported from Italy.

Chicago-based Chef Rick Bayles  says he builds his dishes based on what he gets from local farmers.  “We don’t incorporate the ingredients — we build on them.  That’s what you have to do if you want to do cuisine of a region; you don’t sprinkle them over a dish or something like that.  We build around what the farmers bring us.”

“ … That’s exactly the way that cuisines develop. Cuisine doesn’t develop from somebody saying they’re just going to dream up a dish; that’s like building your house from sand,” he adds.

Another restaurateur committed to serving green is Robbie Goco who has lately started Green Pastures, which has become a place to go for eating organic and eating local.

Goco has experimented on what he calls a December salad – one that is very Pinoy.  What he did was to come up with a list of Pinoy salad favourites:  potato salad macaroni salad, Caesar salad and fruit salad.  So he just put these all together in one go and the result was a great hit with his customers.

Gigi Morris, who owns a small farm in Batangas, started the first Farmers to Chefs Meet-up in the Philippines,  She shares the benefits from forging productive relationships between farmers and food entrepreneurs, including hoteliers.

“Fruit that ripens under the watchful eye of a local farmer is vastly superior to ripening in a shipping crate.  Greens grown naturally in a farmer’s field is healthier than those grown with harmful pesticides. 

“Fresh fruits and vegetables last longer in walk-in coolers.  The quality of food depends on local production and the quality of care given by the farmer.”

Convincing hotel executives may be a big challenge, she adds. “The corporate world must be willing to accommodate small producer’s needs and the farmers in turn must understand corporate limitations. But such a partnership is not impossible.

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