Local is Not Lip Service!!
There is much made in the annals of “Foodie” literature, marketing and general hype about the “Locavore” movement. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a STRONG proponent of sourcing locally whenever possible. To me this means much more than simply featuring the local producer of artisan product occasionally on your special menu. I DO support local artisan growers. The picture in this post is of myself and my Sous-Chef Rich at Verrill Farms Asparagus Festival a couple Saturdays ago. They are a terrific farm, I did feature a 1st Harvest Chilled Asparagus Soup with Lump Crab and Housemade Creme Fraiche as a special last week and will continue to visit Verrill weekly throughout the season, as well as featuring other regional producers. However, I am in New England, and if I was to use only local produce year round, the menu would be rather limited during the months when little, or nothing, is available harvested locally. And as a Truck featuring seafood, though I am a member of the Chef’s Collaborative, and do firmly believe in featuring sustainable product, I may choose to bring in a lovely catch from around the globe if it suits my fancy. This is supporting someones local economy. However, this is not my point. When I talk about sourcing locally, I mean in a brass tacks, support the guy around the corner who is trying to survive this tough economy, feed him (or her) self, save a business and compete with the corporate behemoths which dominate our economy, and don’t give a damn about the individual. Do I sound bitter. Damn straight. I did 9 years with Sodexo, a massive food service provider. The pay was good, the benefits terrific, and I was lucky to find venues in which my high end skills were valuable and was able to be fairly creative within the increasingly standardized world of corporate dining. Then the economy went South. The bean counters realized I was a well payed, over 50 strain on their budget, and were kind enough to “downsize” me. Was it personal? Obviously not. I was just a number. Which is exactly my point. The guy down the street is not just a number. He is my neighbor. He is a small businessman like myself, the stuff our country was built on. So I take locally seriously. My main fish purveyor, my butcher, my commissary, the company which vinyl-wrapped my truck, my printer, even my propane supplier are all within 6 blocks of my home. Do I sometimes pay a little more? Yes. Do I pass some of this on to the customer? Yes. Call it splitting the difference to support small business, help individuals survive, and even flourish in a sour, corporate dominated economy. It’s just the right thing to do. Sure I’m a businessman. Sometimes I need to shop at the Restaurant Depot (the Wal-Mart of food service), or pass along some of the cost of using only eco-friendly product to help keep our planet livable. That’s life in business, and I believe we all share a responsibility for making thoughtful, responsible decisions with our wallets to help make the world a better place for all of us. Do I still have the best prices for the best seafood on 4 wheels? You betcha.