Local restaurants make effort to serve local foods

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 23, 2012

By Kathy Chaffin
More and more restaurants in Rowan and Cabarrus counties are making efforts to serve locally grown food.
Heather Hopkins-Teeter, owner/chef of Sweet Meadow Cafe in Salisbury, and John Blumreich, executive chef of Forty Six at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, both say they try to buy locally grown food whenever possible and that more and more customers seem to want locally grown food.
“I think it’s something that people are starting to think about more often these days,” Hopkins-Teeter said, “so I think it does have an effect on my business.”
Blumreich said he thinks people prefer locally grown food “not from a flavor standpoint or a taste standpoint but from a ‘support the community’ standpoint and doing your best to reduce gas emissions from transportation.”
Hopkins-Teeter, who purchased Sweet Meadow Cafe — located at 118 W. Innes St. — at the beginning of last year after working there for 14 years, said she buys 75 percent of produce locally during the growing season. “During the off season,” she said, “that goes down a little bit, obviously.”
The produce is usually grown with a 50-mile radius,” Hopkins-Teeter said. “If I have an opportunity to buy something that’s North Carolinian vs. Floridian, I’m going to buy North Carolinian inside that 50-mile radius.”
Though she typically purchases vegetables and fruits from the Salisbury Farmers’ Market, Hopkins-Teeter said she plans to reach out to local farmers to discuss purchasing produce in larger quantities. 
When purchasing fruits and vegetables, Hopkins-Teeter said quality is a big factor. “But so is ‘How easy is it for me to get it?’ and ‘How much is it going to cost?’ ” she said.
Hopkins-Teeter said she would like to see local farmers branch out and plant a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. “The more diversity I have,” she said, “the more creative I can be.”
Buying local produce helps support the community, Hopkins-Teeter said. “I think it’s really important to spend our money in our own neighborhood,” she said, “where it gets used the best.”
Hopkins-Teeter said she is also looking into purchasing meat and dairy products from local farmers. In addition to local farmers, she purchases from local bakers. “I try to deal with as many local vendors as I possibly can,” she said.
Blumreich, who has more than 20 years food service experience, was hired in early 2011 as the executive chef at Forty Six, located at 101 West Ave., Kannapolis. He said the percentage of locally grown produce used by the restaurant is not that high at this point but that he hopes to use more depending on what is available at local farmers’ markets.
“The price will drive a good bit of what we do,” Blumreich said.
The certified Angus beef used by the restaurant is purchased regionally vs. locally, he said, though Forty Six has on occasion purchased meat from a farm in Rowan County.
Forty Six has a reputation for its healthy food (the restaurant’s unique name comes from the number of chromosomes in the human genome). Dole Food Company chairman/owner David H. Murdock – the visionary behind the N.C. Research Campus – decided to open the restaurant to serve healthy food not only to its employees, but the people of Kannapolis and surrounding areas as well.
As for the amount of locally grown food used by the restaurant, he said that will continue to increase. “It’s definitely a trend.”
At present, Blumreich said he purchases more locally grown collards and sweet potatoes than anything else. Forty Six offers vegan collard greens as a set pairing with the protein on two of its dinner menu choices as well as a side offering for lunch and dinner.
Forty Six also purchases other locally grown produce such as tomatoes and squash and plans to purchase even more.