The Farm-to-Table Movement has become increasing popular within the culinary community. It has been one of the biggest trends to hit the industry in a while, but what exactly is Farm-to-Table Cuisine?
Farm-to-Table Cuisine is a phrase that has been thrown around, talked about in chef interviews, and added to the chicest of menus, but is it really something new?
“The idea of Farm-to-Table is not a new ideology or method of thinking about cooking.” Says Director of Education and Pastry Arts Director, Chef Gene Leiterman of Platt College Moore, OK. “After all, up until a few generations ago, we were much more connected to our food source. Our milk, meat, and vegetables were sourced from our local dairy, butcher, and market, which in turn, came from the local farmers in the region we lived in.” For centuries all food was farm to table. People either grew their own foods or bought them from a nearby farmer. All food that was put on the table was literally farm to table and nothing in between.
It wasn’t until more people began moving away from rural areas and into the cities that many local food sources disappeared. The building of interstate highway systems and improvements in shipping techniques, such as refrigerated transportation, made it easier to bring in food from further away. Food was no longer harvested from the farm and served within a day or so. The longer the time between harvesting and actually eating, the more quality was lost.
The Farm-to-Table movement was formed by a desire to bring quality ingredients back to the table.
“The movement to reconnect to our food origins in the purest sense has become a way of life and a new restaurant model under many fashionable names and concepts. And if the local “Whole Foods” has done anything, it has brought food culture into the consciousness of popular culture.” Says Chef Leiterman.
The Traits of Farm-to-Table Cuisine
The recent popularity of the farm-to-table concept has the phrase popping up in restaurants everywhere, but how can we know that we are actually getting authentic farm to table cuisine? Here are some traits to look for:
Regional, Seasonal, and Clean
Most of the ingredients you will find in farm-to-table cuisine are regional, seasonal, and clean. These concepts are actually very simple. First of all you want the ingredients to come from nearby. Ideally the chef would be able to tell you exactly what farm the ingredients came from, but in the very least he or she should be able to say that they were purchased from a local farmer’s market or co-op. Next, you’ll want make sure everything being served is in season. You wouldn’t find fresh peach cobbler in Michigan in January, just like you wouldn’t find cranberry sauce in Texas in July. Lastly you want your food to be clean and fresh. The concept of clean eating is similar to that of farm-to-table. Basically you want to see that your food is in the most natural form possible and minimally processed. If you were to tour the kitchen of the restaurant you would want to see produce in its original state, not row upon row of canned food.
Heirloom and Heritage
Many ingredients in Farm-to-Table Cuisine are heirloom and heritage produce and meat. Heirloom is a designation for produce that hasn’t been crossbred with any other varieties for several generations and hasn’t been genetically modified. Heritage essentially means the same thing, but for meats. The terms are often used interchangeably. These types of foods are not hybridized and because of that they are hardier and bursting with flavor. When a farmer takes the time to save the seeds and produce heirloom foods generation after generation, he or she is preserving a flavor and particular piece of history within that food.
“Whether you know it as Farm-to-Table, local or regional cuisine, or clean food and to some extent sustainable and organic – the notion is very simple: know where your food comes from and be thoughtful and deliberate about the way you use it to harness the purest expression of its value.” Adds Chef Leiterman.
Written by: Jennifer Robinson, Social Media Coordinator – Platt College