Farm-to-table feels like such a quintessentially California concept. Like many things progressive, Californians were early adopters of the movement. Alice Waters is considered the mother of farm-to-table cuisine with her iconic restaurant Chez Panisse. She took what the French have always understood—that local and seasonal tastes better—and brought that idea back to Berkley. There was San Francisco with its hippie culture, food critics, and exotic cuisine—soba and sushi on the table 20 years before the rest of the country had ever heard of either. More recently there is Michael Pollan, whose book Omnivore’s Dilemma perhaps gave birth to the “farm-to-table” movement as we now know it in 2016—which is everywhere, almost to the point of mockery. (Please tell us you’ve seen the Portlandia “Is the Chicken Local?” episode.)
There is a certain idealism to the farm-to-table movement. It makes complete sense, but still contains controversy. Has the industrialization of food fed more people? Or has it just made us fatter and sicker? The answer is probably both. Local, seasonal, and organic is expensive, and when you move your way east, it becomes less and less of “a thing.” But it seems almost yearly the gap starts to close. Small towns now have restaurants that pride themselves on local produce and the demand for organic continues to rise. Although we still have far to go, we’re making progress.
Like most things, change starts from the top, and while eating local is still more expensive the more support it gets, the more we can hope for equality. Local food should absolutely not cost more than food that has been freighted across borders using truckloads of gasoline, but it does. Chefs are at the heart of this movement. They have the power to take something that has started as elitist and move it down the chain to make it more accessible for everyone. It’s the basic law of economics, demand and supply. The more people ask for foods produced with integrity, the more there will be.
This is why we are in huge support of restaurant concepts like Farmshop.
Farmshop was founded by chef/owner Jeff Cerciello, who is a native Californian with a passion for all that his state has to offer. His range of culinary experience includes the best of the best: Spain’s iconic El Bulli to The French Laundry where he became a part of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. He created Farmshop as his own mission to honor and support local farmers and purveyors. What he has conceived is a beautifully designed restaurant in combination with an expertly curated deli and market. In both the Marin and Brentwood locations the vibe is festive. You feel like you are there to celebrate the culture of food and have all the tools of a bon vivant at your fingertips—wine, chocolates, cheeses, charcuterie etc. It is a feel good atmosphere with quality product; you trust everything you are eating and buying, and that in and of itself makes you feel even better.
We went one Friday afternoon to experience the brunch and lunch menus. We were expertly guided through the menu by Culinary Director Brian Reimer, who also happened to be in meetings with award-winning farmer Alex Weiser of Weiser Farms. Weiser Farms supplies a unique array of organic and local fruits and vegetables to many of Southern California’s top restaurants. In the midst of our delicious meal, which included everything from shirred eggs to avocado hummus to house made pastrami, we had conversations about the local farming culture and how important it is. Alex introduced us to his newest venture, the Tehachapi Grain Project – a movement dedicated to bringing back integrity and diversity to our Golden State of grains. We talked about what gluten really is, and why we’re all so allergic to it. It made us pause to think about grains as they should be—the staff of life—an affordable and nutritious solution that have been so far from removed from their intended state.
In a word, we felt inspired. The passion and communication between Chef Reimer and farmer was obvious. This was fun for everyone. How do we make food taste better, feel better, and be better for us? You embrace humanity and local culture. Knowing who grows your food is something we’ve only gotten away from in the last 60 years or so. We make up an experimental generation that is completely disconnected to the source. What this does to our psychology and physiology is yet to fully be explored, but fat, sick and disconnected seems to be part of it.
Farmshop exemplifies the same philosophies we hold ourselves to at Poppy+Seed. Accountable to honesty, to create community and artistry, and to make it beautiful throughout the process.