A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association reports that restaurant chefs have caught on to something home gardeners have known for a long, long time. Grow-your-own produce tastes best.
According to the survey released today, gardens are the “top trend” identified by more than 2,000 chefs nationwide. While it’s tempting to be a little cynical and note that with Michelle Obama planting a garden and local becoming a branding term, restaurant gardens may be a fad. But the chefs have realized something home gardeners have also known for awhile: grow-your-own produce is often less expensive than store produce. For many restaurants, planting a garden is cheaper than paying shipping, especially for somewhat high-end ingredients or fragile, but compact plants such as herbs.
As a northern gardener, I know that it requires some technology and investment to grow your own through the winter here–hoophouses and hydroponics, for example. But some of the restaurants mentioned in this article are not from California or other 10-month gardening states. They are from Michigan and Washington, D.C. and New York City — though I doubt the restaurants are saving much money growing vegetables in hydroponic towers in Manhattan. These chefs don’t grow all of their own produce, but they grow enough to affect the quality of what they are cooking, as well as their costs.
I’m not familiar with any Minnesota restaurants that use produce from their own gardens, except for the restaurant at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. (If you know of some others, post a comment — I want to eat there.) But, I know many restaurants get their vegetables from local farmers — which is another great garden and food trend for eaters and growers.