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FINDING YOUR WAY

January 23, 2012

The Path from Farm to Table might not be so clear
By Leah Weinberg, Associate, Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP

Anyone paying attention to what’s going on around them has noticed that there’s no stopping one of the more popular movements in the restaurant world — farm-to-table. Chefs are the driving force behind this experience as they feature local ingredients as staples on their menu, thus supporting local businesses and conducting business in a more environmentally friendly way. Their diners are right behind them, applauding the effort.

Desirable as it may be to win that applause from guests who have soaked up hours of food and beverage programming like that dished out on Bravo’s “Top Chef”, Travel Channel and Food Network offerings featuring celebrity chefs (like Rachael Ray, Anthony Bourdain, Bobby Flay and all the Iron Chefs), being environmentally friendly and starting a farm-to-table operation may or may not be all that simple, depending on the path one chooses.

For chefs and restaurateurs looking to open a farm-to-table restaurant, or transform an existing operation into one that focuses more on sustainability and utilizing locally produced ingredients, the main hurdle is selecting a particular business model. As with any business there are a few ways to go about this.

The first of these requires owning both the restaurant and the farm; the next option, which demands a little less commitment on the part of the restaurateur who may not have a green thumb, involves contracting with a local purveyor to purchase food from a particular farm on a regular basis. Finally, the simplest option for those wanting to test the waters of a farm-to-table concept before doing something as binding as buying a farm or entering into contractual agreements for a local supply, is to purchase food from local markets on an as needed basis with no formal arrangement in place.

Your most costly and complex option is to own the restaurant and the farm. Owning the farm that supplies one’s restaurant requires enough funding and the technical knowledge to keep the operation afloat. On the plus side, deciding to own and operate a farm allows the owner to be directly responsible for cultivating the land, hiring the farmers, growing the produce and raising the livestock needed to Continue Reading…