As the local food movement gathers steam across the country, the trend has slowly been going almost exclusively from farmers’ markets to retail, and now, more and more, restaurants.
Benjamin Knight, general manager and wine director, and Vivian Howard, Chef, of Chef & The Farmer started their restaurant just over four years ago in downtown Kinston with the specific business plan to utilize local food sources. Vivian says that thus far, they’ve been successful at achieving that goal:
“We source all of our chicken, pork, lamb, rabbit, some of our beef, much of our fish, from within 70 miles of here. And as much produce as possible, and we do quite a bit of freezing and preserving during the summer so that we can use it during the fall and winter months.”
Vivian goes on to explain that it was a challenge at first, and still requires a bit of quick thinking regarding the menu:
“Yes, it is challenging, because you have to be really quick on your feet, ready to change the menu…as soon is corn is gone, there is no more corn. But, you may have someone who came in the week before and really enjoyed the chilled sweet corn soup, and you no longer have it. So, you have to be really quick and ready to replace things that have gone out of season. That is one obstacle, yes. “
Maintaining that local food menu in the winter months has generated some creativity on Chef Vivian’s part:
“I had never really done anything like that before, and in the past we did a little canning…pressure canning that we quickly learned was not allowed by USDA. So, this year we’ve had to change our approach and do a lot of jams, and pickles and jellies and straight-up frozen items that work better in a freezer.”
Benjamin says they chose Kinston because of the future they saw in the downtown area:
“Vivian is from not too far from here, and we had kinda checked out some of the other towns in the area, and we felt like the bones of Kinston, the downtown size was prime for being revitalized, and we wanted to have a part in that.”
Benjamin says that people don’t necessarily dine with them because they promote locally grown food:
“I think people eat here because the food is good. And then as they come more and realize the food is good because of the sourcing of the food, it becomes more important to them. But, initially, I think people come here because they’ve heard the food is good, and from there we’ve tried to educate them as to why.”
One thing that Vivian and Benjamin are excited about is farmers are starting to come to them to grow product especially for the restaurant.
Find The Chef & Farmer online and at 120 West Gordon Street, in Kinston.