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Finding the right ingredients is one of the most important jobs that a restaurant chef has – especially if your restaurant changes its menu regularly based on what’s in season. Building relationships with farmers, foragers, and purveyors is the best way to get the right product, but it can be hard to figure out how to get started. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips to help you find the best sources in your community for local, fresh food.
Join a CSA
This can be a little tricky for restaurant chefs, because you never know what you’re going to get in your weekly box. But, it can help introduce you to local farmers, and will give you a peek into the type of product they produce for future reference.
Walk the Walk
Many small farms will offer discounted produce in exchange for work. If understanding where your food comes from is important to you, it might be worth your time to get your hands dirty. You’ll be able to save some money for your restaurant and build relationships with the farmers who provide you with your food. In turn, they might give you the heads up when something special comes around that they think you’ll love.
Hit the Farmer's Market
If you’re not checking out your local Farmer's Market on a weekly basis, you’re missing out. Even if you only pick up a few things to help accent your dishes (a couple bunches of fresh herbs, a few bushels of local strawberries, or some local ramps, for instance), you’ll be helping to support small local businesses. Nothing completes a dish (and gives you the opportunity to add a few more dollars to the final cost) like a few ‘locally-sourced’ ingredients.
Join the Club
Really great restaurant chefs know that they can find product in lots of different places, and that’s why it’s important to keep your eyes peeled all the time. Check out local gardening, hunting, and mushroom foraging clubs to meet people who source food in different ways. You never know when you might find someone with a passion for finding truffles, and is willing to give you a great price on them. Do you have any different or unique ways you source ingredients? Share your tips with us in our comment section.