Monthly Archives: April 2015

What is the Farm-to-Table?

 

Farm to table movement

 

One of the biggest trends in the culinary world today is the farm-to-table movement. The phrase “farm to table” is a buzzword referring to food made with locally sourced ingredients. Our society is in a rapid state of technological innovation, which means that we often compromise health and nutrition for the sake of convenience, hence the popularity of fast food and TV dinners. However, a growing number of consumers have started to seek healthier and more environmentally friendly alternatives to the processed foods that dominate grocery store shelves. Learn more about the roots of the farm-to-table dining scene to understand why it has become such an important trend in our society.

Back to Our Roots: Farm-to-Table Movement History

The Rise and Fall of Processed Foods

At the turn of the 20th century, most of the food that Americans ate came from within 50 miles. However, as Americans began moving away from rural areas and flocking to cities, many local food sources disappeared. Interstate highways and improvements in shipping technology led us to bring in food from further and further away. For the sake of convenience, American’s began to rely on processed foods as away to save time for meal preparations.

Emphasizing Quality Over Convenience

Farm-to-table restaurants are taking us back to our roots by valuing quality over ease and convenience. Processed foods, although quick to prepare, typically contain excessive amounts of sugar, fat, and sodium, and consuming these foods regularly can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. The farm-to-table scene emphasizes simply prepared food comprised of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

From the 70′s to the 21st Century

The first farm-to-table restaurants can be traced back to the hippie movement in the 60s and 70s, when organic, local, and natural food became trendy and more people began supporting local farmers. Pioneers in the food to table movement include Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and Jerry Traunfeld of Herbfarm in Washington State.

However, while these types of restaurants have existed for decades, it was not until about ten years ago, where the locavore movement began to really take off. Initially, farm-to-table restaurants began in progressive cities like Boulder, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; and Berkeley, California, but today they can be found everywhere from Austin to Anchorage.

Emphasis on Locally Sourced, Seasonal Foods

Increasing Availability

Healthy food choices are often expensive and of limited availability, but that is slowly changing. More and more farm-to-table restaurants, farmer’s markets, and food co-ops are cropping up to meet the demand among consumers for healthy, local foods, as more chefs and consumers recognize the poorer taste and nutritional integrity of ingredients shipped in from far away.

The Strenghs of Local Food

According to the definition adopted by the US Congress in the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, the total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a local or regional agricultural food product is less than 400 miles from its origin.

Fruits and vegetables that have to be shipped long distances are often picked before they have a chance to fully ripen and absorb nutrients from their surroundings. Because local food doesn’t have to travel long distances, it is grown in order to taste better and be healthier rather than to be resilient to long travel. The farm-to-table movement also has severed to help local economies by supporting small farmers, which were becoming a dying breed.

Environmental Benefits of Farm-to-Table Dining

Fewer Transport Miles = Fewer Transmissions

Local food is not only healthier and tastier, it is also better for the environment because fewer transport miles equal fewer transmissions. According to a study conducted by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, food travels 1,500 miles on average from farm to customer while locally sourced food travels an average of 44.6 miles. The same study found that the conventional food distribution system uses 4 to 17 times more fuel and emits 5 to 17 times more CO2 than local and regional systems.

How Food is Transported Also Matters

However, the environmental impact of food depends not only on how long it travels, but also on how it is transported. Ton for ton, trains are far more efficient at moving freight than trucks are. This means that the greenhouse gases associated with transporting potatoes trucked in from 100 miles away is the same as those associated with potatoes shipped in by rail from 1,000 miles away.

Farm-to-Table Cuisine: A Refreshing Trend

The farm-to-table scene is a refreshing trend in today’s hectic, technology-driven world. The movement brings us back to the basics and encourages us to enjoy fresh, simple foods. More of today’s consumers understand the value of eating local, seasonal food, and they are willing to pay a premium to get it. Gourmet chefs aren’t the only ones who are embracing farm-to-table cuisine. Even Chipotle, the fast-food Mexican chain, strives to buy many of its ingredients from local purveyors.

If you’re thinking about training to become a culinary professional, consider incorporating aspects of the farm-to-table movement into your career so you can craft culinary creations that improve people’s health, protect the planet, and support the growth of local economies.

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20 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Caterer

Image result for wedding

20 questions to ask a wedding caterer before you hire one.

Choosing and hiring a wedding caterer is one of the most important decisions you will make in your planning process. The type of wedding atmosphere you envision, the number of your guests, the location and your wedding budget will all be a part of your considerations.

Here are some questions that you will want to ask any caterer that you are considering for your wedding.

1. What do you recommend for my budget and style of wedding? How much does it cost per person?
A caterer usually charges on a per-person basis. You will need to know the number of guests you plan to invite. The caterer should also give you a date deadline for submitting your final number of guests.
2. Do you specialize in a particular cuisine? Will it fit my style & budget? Can I request a recipe?
Be sure the style of food fits what you envision for your wedding reception. Maybe there’s an appetizer or entree that is special to you and your family. It would be a definite plus for the caterer to work it into the menu.
3. Do you have other weddings booked for the same weekend or the day and time?
Be sure your caterer has a concrete plan for handling all the business they have lined up for the time of your wedding.
4. Do you hold a license?
This applies to health department requirements and liability insurance. Beware of a caterer that doesn’t readily provide this information.
5. Does the cost-per-person work differently for a buffet style setup versus a sit-down dinner?
The answer is probably “yes”, but it is worth asking.
6. Do you include all charges in the cost-per-person?
Some caterers include the cost of the staff, rentals, linens and food in their cost-per-person. Find out if this is the case, so you can comparison shop smartly.
7. Can you provide a detailed list of included and additional charges?
Caterers are going to charge you for every service provided (at a premium price). Be sure you know what all the charges are. A good caterer will list out all charges including for-instance charges in case the reception starts late (overtime charges), gratuities and set-up/clean-up charges.
8. Do you provide any extras?
Some caterers provide the glasses and other dinnerware, linens, tables, chairs, serving dishes, etc. You will want to know their price and find out the price it would cost for you to arrange these items from a wedding equipment vendor. It may be worth the extra money to have the caterer handle it.
9. If you do provide linens and dinnerware, do you provide options in color and style?
Caterers often have a selection of dinnerware and linens in a limited range. It may be possible for them to obtain a special request from a wedding equipment vendor. The price will increase if this is the case.
10. Who will be responsible for the catering the day of my wedding?
You will want to meet the person who will be in charge of your wedding catering. It’s important to insist on this because you want to trust they will do the job you are hiring them to do.
11. How long will it take you to set up and break down?
You will probably be allotted a timeframe by your reception location for setup and cleanup. Be sure the caterer can work within these timeframes.
12. Do you make wedding and/or grooms cakes?
This may be a plus if the caterer can either arrange for a baker to create your cake(s).
13. If you don’t provide cakes, can you cut and serve one that we provide?
The caterer may charge you a cake cutting and serving fee, but it may also be included in the catering package price. Be sure to find out because you will have to enlist some help if they do not provide this service.
14. How does your beverage service work? Can we provide our own alcohol?
Some caterers require you to buy the alcohol through them. Others will just charge you a corkage fee for the stemware and service.
15. Will you setup a station for the other wedding vendors to eat (photographer, musicians, DJ)?
The caterer may include a vendor food area, but they may also charge for it. Check out what pricing is involved. These vendors do not have to eat the same meals as your guests. A simple beverage and hors devours station may suffice.
16. Can you provide meals that are “kid friendly”
The caterer may be able to provide a discounted “kid’s meal” option that you can use in a children’s area. This is a good way to save some dollars if you are expecting a lot of families with children.
17. Will you let us look at your standard contract?
This should be a no-brainer for an experienced caterer. A caterer who operates without a contract on an event as large as a wedding is not practicing good business judgment. Be sure to get everything in writing just in case circumstances change. You never know.
18. What is your required deposit to hold the date? When do we pay the rest of the bill?
This is a very important question because the deposit seals the deal. You should receive the contract with these terms outlined.
19. Will you let us sample dishes proposed for our wedding?
Sampling the food is a great way to determine whether a caterer is worth hiring. A caterer should receive a major plus if they do let you sample. Most should.
20. Do you have any former clients we can call?
Word of mouth is the best way to find out about a business’ true dealings. Speaking with a former client can help you make the decision on this very expensive wedding cost.

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