Chefs reap rewards of local motion

Consumer interest in provenance reaches all-time high, as Gillian McKenzie reports

OPERATORS and chefs who have yet to buy in to local produce could be missing a trick as consumer interest in provenance reaches an all-time high.

That was the message from chefs contacted by SLTN last week, who said a growing number of diners want to know the origin of ingredients.
And it seems bars and restaurants offering locally-sourced produce – and shouting about it – stand to reap the rewards.
As well as fulfilling diners’ demands for information on traceability, using local ingredients can bring a host of other benefits.

A growing number of consumers are said to be choosing restaurants that use local produce.

Neil Forbes of Café St Honoré in Edinburgh said it’s “hugely important” to source from local small-scale suppliers.
“I want to know exactly where my food comes from and then share that information with my guests,” he said.
“Buying local means money in our area and makes you become community-aware.
“A lot of diners are interested as to where their food is from and we promote the story on our menus by naming farms and breeders.
“People are certainly migrating to restaurants that care and use words like provenance, local, traceable, organic and sustainable, which can only be a good thing for us.”
Jason Wright, head chef at Steak in Edinburgh, agreed, saying buying from local suppliers is a ‘win-win’ situation.
“Local produce benefits the business through keeping myself and the chefs interested in produce, old and new,” he said.
“But also, working locally gives a good sense of community in this ever-growing industry and keeps everyone talking. I’ll never get tired of hearing ‘have you tried so-and-so’s veg, it’s amazing’ or ‘his fish is so fresh’ – this is what local produce brings to the table.”
Ross Cochrane, head chef at the Udny Arms Hotel in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, echoed the importance of using local produce. He said flagging up the source of ingredients on the menu indicates the “time and care” that has gone in to making a dish.
“People like to eat local produce,” said Ross.
“It is very important to know where your produce is coming from and supporting local suppliers is vital. It’s great knowing how our lamb and beef has been reared and looked after before it goes to slaughter.
“Diners like to know where their food is coming from and it’s interesting how many people choose dishes that use ingredients from local suppliers they have heard of.”
Thomas McQuade, assistant sous chef at The Italian Bistro in Glasgow’s west end, said as well as satisfying consumer demand for information on the source of ingredients, using local suppliers can bring financial benefits.
“In addition to the benefit of repeat business from discerning diners demanding fresh local produce, the fact that our suppliers are local means they are often able to supply produce at very competitive prices due to very low, if any, transportation costs,” he said. “Whilst using one supplier would definitely reduce the amount of paper work required and open the possibility of securing a better price due to the volume of orders placed, on the other hand, using several suppliers means that we are better placed to negotiate the best possible price.”
Jason at Steak in Edinburgh said building relationships with local suppliers is key.
“It creates a strong personal relationship with the people that are bringing you the ingredients to create the food the customer comes to eat; and the closer the relationship, the more information you have to give the customer, as interest in every bit of our industry is growing,” he said.
Neil at Café St Honoré said sourcing produce locally does take some planning and organisation – but he said the “benefits are huge”.
“We work very closely with all our producers to manage our weekly/twice-weekly deliveries of organic meat and vegetables,” he added.
“A lot of deliveries are actually from the farmers’ market so things are dropped off on that day or piggy-backed onto a neighbouring farm’s delivery. It’s all very well put together, but I spend a lot of time on the phone to make it work.”

Image – A growing number of consumers are said to be choosing restaurants that use local produce.