Shopping Chefs

July 7, 2006

This week, we have a few suggestions for those looking to eat well while eating out. And by well, we don’t just mean healthfully. Over 50 Bay Area chefs shop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to supply their restaurant kitchens with fresh regional food—food that is well-raised, well-selected and, well, delicious!

Relationships between farmers and chefs influence both their work: farmers’ seasonal harvests determine the changing menus of many local restaurants, and chefs’ culinary wishes have an impact on what farmers grow, too. We see many chefs at the market every week walking their talk, talking with the farmers and learning about their produce, and pushing around carts heavy with their purchases. Chefs come to the market to get the freshest, most flavorful farm products available. They take inspiration from interesting varieties and farmers’ stories. They can sometimes even get ingredients to order; we know at least one grower who encourages chefs to look through his seed catalog and make recommendations for new varieties to try. Some farmers have also planted heirloom seeds brought to them by chefs from their travels to the far reaches of the world.

We are often asked for recommendations of restaurants that serve local, seasonal, and sustainable food. Below is a list of the restaurants we know of that regularly shop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Though this is by no means a comprehensive list of establishments that buy from our farmers (many growers deliver produce directly to restaurants), it is a great place to start if you are looking for a meal you can feel good about enjoying. At the top of the list, are a few restaurants that stand out to us for their nearly perfect attendance records and hearty support of our farmers.

Aziza – Mourad Lahlou, Chef and owner of this extraordinary Moroccan restaurant, can sometimes be found watching weekly demonstrations by other chefs at our Market to Table programs. Over the past two years, Mourad has become an increasingly dedicated supporter of local farms and farmers’ markets, and now sources ingredients from over 25 of the farms that sell at our market. This Monday, July 10, Aziza is collaborating with Mariquita Farm to present a goat kid dinner at the restaurant.

The Fifth Floor – Melissa Perello, The Fifth Floor’s young and talented Executive Chef, really makes her rounds at the farmers’ market. It is not uncommon to see her thoroughly absorbed in a conversation with a farmer, rancher, or cheesemaker. Melissa bases her menus almost entirely upon what is available seasonally and locally.

Globe – When Globe Restaurant’s Executive Chef Jason Tallent strolls through the market on Saturday afternoon, he truly hasn’t an inkling of what he will cook at the next evening’s Farm Dinner. Globe’s menu always features food from local farms, and the absolute freshest ingredients inspire their prix fixe Sunday option.

Greens – Greens Restaurant, established by the San Francisco Zen Center in 1979, was founded on the idea of a direct farm-restaurant relationship. About a quarter of everything the Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm grows goes to the vegetarian restaurant, and Greens’ Chef, Annie Somerville, visits the market religiously to buy items that can’t be grown in Green Gulch Farm’s cool, coastal Marin location. After an interview with Matt Vivrett, Manager of Green Gulch Farm, Annie will demonstrate her recipe for Corn and Cherry Tomato Salad with Arugula (served with crostini with fromage blanc and chive blossoms) this Saturday at our Market to Table programs.

Incanto – Chris Cosentino, Incanto’s daring Chef, has long been a supporter of the market. The Italian restaurant is well-known for house-cured meats, Head to Tail dinners, and a commitment to sustainably grown food. This summer, Incanto will again hold a series of Summer Sagra dinners, each featuring a four-course thematic menu built around a seasonal ingredient from a local farm.

Range – Phil West, Range’s Chef and owner, says he shops at the market to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s fresh and seasonal, and to pick up food from farmers that don’t run a delivery route. Opened in 2005, Range has quickly become a favorite spot for San Francisco food lovers. The farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients with which Phil creates Range’s dishes undoubtedly have something to do with the restaurant’s popularity.

For a more complete list of restaurants that frequent the farmers’ market, go here.