Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Certified Organic vs. Locally Grown

This can be a very interesting and provocative topic. I put an emphasis on the relationship that you establish with the grower. I’ve always believed that doing this enhances the level of integrity regarding your food and restaurant. Moreover, as your business (the restaurant) further evolves, these personalities (of the individual growers) certainly help shape the character of your restaurant. It is this “character” that gives your restaurant substance. Essentially, they become an integral part of your operation, almost as if they are one of your employees, or rather an ambassador of your concept. Ultimately if you (the chef) conduct your business in this manner, it is up to you (as the chef) to conduct yourself with an uncompromising sense of integrity and associate with those who do the same.

From some of the conservations that I’ve had with various farmers, it seems as if the “organic” label is progressively becoming bastardized because of the many people and/or agencies that are involved in the certification process. Unfortunately it seems that the government will continue to increase its involvement in the entire process not because of it’s interest in the actual movement and/or its benefits, but because it’s yet another means of earning revenue. As this practice continues you will probably find that the common farmer will not be able to afford the increasing costs of gaining certification and therefore they will inevitably abandoned the entire process and at that point they will most certainly have to rely on the relationships that they have established with local chefs in order to move their product and survive…Relationships are key!

I think another interesting aspect to consider is that some people seemingly put too much emphasis on “certified organic” label, “they can’t see past the sticker” – What would you choose, local grown (sustainable) or “certified organic” from California. Obviously you know my answer. The whole “labeling” and “certified” issue worries me a bit, because I don’t want the “organic movement” to take on an elitist tone, “this must be better because it’s organic.” If this were to happen, we would eventually lose the support of our core following; the ordinary folks who truly “get it” from a food perspective. The emphasis needs to be on the quality of the food, not the process. Moreover, we want our growers to focus the product, not the rigor of the certification process.

What do you think?

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