6.11.2009

The Local Food Report: the middle man

I don't usually talk about this here, but I have a night job. A restaurant night job, in the summer at least. I hostess at Blackfish in Truro, an upscale gastropub type place where the old Blacksmith Shop used to be. It's the kind of place where the ivy grows through the bricks into the dining room and pork belly is an everyday thing, and my job is to fit three seatings of four tops and two tops and ten tops, even, into and out from a maze of copper tables in happy, contented waves. Most of the time—when no one is in an uproar about the lack of vegan dishes or the fact that it is noisy at 7:30 on a Saturday night, when everyone is feeling reasonable and at ease—it is one of my favorite places to be. I was certainly glad to be there last night, when the first flat of local strawberries came in. Here's our busser, Lee, about to dig in:


The strawberries came from a business called LunaSoul Foods, run by Liam Luttrell-Rowland out of Wellfleet. Blackfish has always focused on local food, but this is something new. Each week, Liam gets together with our chef, and they put together a list of local specials. Then Liam drives up to the farms—Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable, Matt's Organic Gardens in Dennis, and Checkerberry Farm in Orleans, let's say—and picks up produce for the next week. He works not just with our chef, but with five other chefs, acting as the local food middle man. It's his version of a farmer chef collaborative—the first one on the Cape. 

The cool thing about LunaSoul Foods is that Liam is knocking down a barrier—the distribution issues that built up the wall between farmers and chefs in the first place. Most chefs think it's unrealistic to use local food, because they're too busy to call twenty different farmers just to get twenty different kinds of produce, and the farmers are too busy to drive around delivering their product to chefs. What was missing was a delivery company, at least until Liam stepped in. 


But while Liam delivers, he's also doing more than that. He's a chef by training—he used to cook at the Juice in Wellfleet and Enzo in Provincetown—and when he brings the food, he sticks around to help create a dish. Just the other day we had a stinging nettle cream sauce on top of one of the specials that he came up with. It's was true collaboration—both between the farmer that grew the nettles and our chef, and Liam as the middle man. 

Here's a list of the restaurants and farms LunaSoul Foods is working with:

Blackfish, Truro
The Juice, Wellfleet
Sol, Wellfleet
Terra Luna, Truro
The Wicked Oyster, Wellfleet

E & T Farms, Barnstable
NestWood Farm, Truro
Redberry Farm, Eastham

Things are still just starting up—it isn't like LunaSoul Foods has an official looking website or a business card just yet—but keep your ear out this season for what the collaboration brings. I have a feeling it will be fairly delicious, and with any luck, the idea will catch on. After all, Liam is only one person. We need other middle men and women, too.

2 comments :

Kelly said...

Interesting collaborative, I hope the diners notice a difference in the food and appreciate how good local,fresh food can tatse. Before moving to this area the majority of our exposure had been to national chain eateries. We would go out to eat locally down here and say 'we will never eat at a chain again'. The food tasted great and after eating we felt great.....at first we thought it was all the Chefs coming out of school in RI but as the years have gone by we know that it is also the reliance on local fish, meat, and produce to create seasonal menues that makes the true difference. Thanks for bringing up the middle man, he has an important job!

Elspeth said...

Kelly—I think they do. We've been selling out almost every night, so it seems like the concept is catching on. It's good to hear how fresh food changed your perspective—it can make a huge difference to feel good! The middle man does, indeed, have an important job.

All the best,
Elspeth

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