Farm-to-table has been the buzzphrase of the culinary world for a while now, often accompanied by others like ‘tasting menu’ and ‘biodynamic wines’. But this hyperlocal and homegrown style of eating is still evolving, and the newest iteration is even more exciting.
The quality of ingredients is a top concern for top-level chefs, so having complete control over the food that ends up on their tables has become something of a cornerstone in the restaurant industry. The best way to eat fresh and local? Right on the farm itself.
Basically, while farm-to-table is a movement that’s all about serving local food sourced directly from farmers and producers, the newest iteration of that trend goes one step further. Rather than stopping at more direct ingredient sourcing, farm-to-fork dining makes it so that your meals and the farms that they’re coming from are basically one in the same. In other words, chefs are increasingly becoming the producers of their ingredients (i.e. no more middleman as chefs basically become the farmers), and restaurants are increasingly planting themselves (pun intended) right on the farms where their ingredients are sourced from.
“With more people looking at provenance and ‘food miles’ when they both shop for food and eat out, restaurants that grow their own ingredients can benefit hugely from this trend,” Simon Ward, managing editor of the award-winning food website loveFOOD, said in an interview. “It allows them to present seasonal food at its freshest, from garden to plate in a matter of hours, and it’s also cheaper, too.”
Read on to learn more about three top restaurants that are embracing this new trend in food.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Blue Hill at Stone Barns has been operating in a sleepy hamlet just north of New York City since 2004. Chef Dan Barber offers guests a dining experience sans menu; instead, visitors take part in a “multi-taste feast” of the freshest ingredients from the fields (and a little from the market). Stone Barns also serves as an educational center, seeking to teach diners about the effects of everyday food choices. The website provides a list of what ingredients are being harvested by month. This July, the list includes Arcuri garlic, Orazio fennel, Alexandria summer squash, Finn Dorset lambs, broad-breasted white turkeys, Malabar spinach, rover radishes, and many more.
Accessibility to high-quality ingredients is an issue close to Barber’s heart, as he is in the process of launching a seed company that he hopes will make crops that have been bred for flavor instead of supermarket appeal available across the world.
On another side of the globe, Chef Dan Hunter moves even further from the big city with Brae. The restaurant is situated on 30 acres outside the small town of Birregurra (population 848) about an hour and a half west of Melbourne, Australia. The emphasis on the working farm is on growing what the chef wants to show. “At 6 pm we pick the strawberries and serve them at 7 pm,” Hunter told SCMP.
Visitors to the restaurant are encouraged to stay in one of six guest suites to enjoy more time on the rolling property, where they are often left as the last people around. “I live two minutes away; the guests feel trusted [with the property]. People feel connected to my place, they feel grounded,” says Hunter. How much closer to the food can you get?
The only way to get closer to the earth is to get further from the urban sprawls of modern metropolitan cities. Chef Magnus Nilsson has taken his seclusion to an even deeper level; you’ll have to work for it if you want a dinner at Fäviken, hidden in the small town of Järpen about a seven-and-a-half hour drive north from Stockholm, Sweden. The restaurant follows the seasons devoutly, pulling inspiration from the rich food traditions of the area, as well as new methods created by the perfectionist head chef.
Chef Nilsson is a forager as well as hunter and gardener; his expertise on Scandic cooking traditions is packed into “The Nordic Cookbook,” which he wrote after extensive travel. He dove deep into the histories of the Nordic cultures all the way from the Sami people to the Faroe Islands in order to pull out recipes that had been abandoned for generations. At Fäviken, the diners are reconnected to the land through the stories on the plates.