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Archive for May, 2012

Chefs Craig and McCormick Take New Positions with Concentrics Restaurants

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Concentrics Restaurants announced two chef changes with Nick McCormick’s promotion to Executive Chef at TAP and Deborah Craig’s new role of Executive Pastry Chef at Parish.

McCormick’s culinary education began at The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago’s Le Cordon Bleu. The Chicago’s James Beard Foundation nominated him for his work at “mk The Restaurant” where he was Chef de Tournant. After his work at MK, McCormick moved to St. Louis in 2008 to start as Chef de Cuisine at “Larry Forgione’s An American Place.” In the time that McCormick was in St. Louis, the American Place was a two time AAA Four Diamond Recipient. Chef McCormick recently worked at Concentric’s TWO urban licks restaurant.

A graduate of the Art Institute of NYC, Craig first worked at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole in New York. She later worked at Billy’s Bakery as a baker and a cake decorator. In April 2006, Craig was recruited by the Jean-Georges Group where she was the sous chef at New York’s Spice Market, V Steakhouse and the pastry cook for Mercer Kitchen. In December 2007, Craig relocated to Atlanta where she was the head pastry chef for Jean Georges’ Spice Market. Here she was responsible for all composed plated desert production and hired and trained pastry staff in all procedures. After 6 years working with Jean-Georges Group, Craig became the Executive Pastry Chef of Atlanta’s Buckhead Bottle Bar, then Atlanta’s Bakeshop.

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Growing the Supply of Pasture Poultry in Georgia

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

By Michael Wall, Communications Director for Georgia Organics

The trend of consumer demand for local, sustainably produced food continues to grow in spite of a downturned economy. “Locally sourced meats” was identified as the No. 1 2012 trend among chefs nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Consumers and restaurateurs are increasingly looking to connect with the farmers growing their food and to identify authentic food sources that have a face and name beyond a glossy label on the grocery store shelf.

As evidence continues to surface from the medical community and public health advocates linking pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics used to grow food with cancer, consumers are looking to minimize their exposure to harmful environmental toxins. As a result, the United States has seen direct market-to-consumer sales of food and attention to sustainable and organic food sources increase significantly in recent years.

Growing Demand in Georgia

Since 2005, Georgia has seen a 600 percent increase in farmers markets. Organic food sales have grown at a similar clip, with an average annual growth rate of 19 percent from 1997 to 2008, while the rest of the food industry has stagnated and even shrunk.

Conscientious consumers are looking for poultry raised with the same value-based practices as vegetables and other meat, and restaurateurs, who continue to play a critical role in supporting the locally grown and organic food movement, are also seeking sources for a higher-quality chicken product.

Most importantly, farmers are entering this market, integrating poultry production into diverse farm operations, which can enhance the environmental and economic sustainability of their overall operations.

Some of the restaurants where you can currently buy pastured chicken include Bella Cucina, Cakes & Ale, Empire State South, Farm Burger, Farm 255, Five & Ten, Heirloom Café, Miller Union, The National and Yeah! Burger. Many distributors carry it as well, including Buckhead Beef, Halpern’s, Heritage Farm, Destiny Organics, Prime Meats, SYSCO and Darby Farms.

Moreover, a new group called Georgians for Pastured Poultry — made up of Georgia-based farmers, chefs, animal welfare advocates, environmentalists and health professionals — envision a Georgia that has become the leading state in the production and consumption of pasture-raised poultry, where animal welfare, human and environmental health, and farmer and worker well-being are as important as economics in the farming of chickens.

Whole Foods Market (WFM) recently became the first grocery retailer in the state to commit to stocking Georgia-raised pastured poultry. It has firmly stated that the higher-welfare poultry will be available on a daily basis, year round. WFM has committed to purchasing at least 22,000 pastured raised birds (both chickens and turkey) in 2012 and making these available on a daily basis, supply permitting, in all of their southeastern stores.

“Whole Foods Market is deeply committed to supporting Georgia farmers who raise pastured poultry and making pastured chicken and turkey available to our customers. We are proud to support Georgians for Pastured Poultry’s efforts by making this pledge,” says Stephen Corradini, regional vice president of purchasing for WFM’s south region.

The Benefits of Sustainable, Pasture-Based Poultry

Sustainable poultry production means reducing costs and maximizing productivity but also attention to myriad other issues. Large-scale production has led to geographical concentration of birds and their waste products, creating environmental concerns in water and air quality. Consumers have increasing concerns about food safety including food borne pathogens, pesticide residues, additives and antibiotic residues. In addition, nutritional value and production process concerns such as animal welfare, genetically modified organisms, environmental impact, worker safety and social justice are raising eyebrows.

Consumption of chicken meat by Americans has risen by 118 percent between 1970 and 2005, faster than pork or beef. Furthermore, the amount of chicken eaten by Americans now rivals that of beef. In particular, chicken has become much more economical over time. Poultry meat has a low retail cost at the grocery store in part because of the production efficiencies of factory farms.

Pasture-based poultry production provides a stark alternative to the chicken houses that cover Georgia’s rural landscape. The houses, which, according to a University of Georgia study, can contain more than 30,000 birds at capacity (in a 50’ x 500’ house), offer little or no access to the outdoors.

In contrast, pastured birds are raised with an all-natural diet, are not administered antibiotics or altered physically to survive the unnatural housing conditions of a traditional poultry house, and are often processed on or near the farm where they are raised. Medium- to slow-growing breeds are used. Birds are raised up to 12 weeks of age, and their slaughter (dressed) weight is 3-4 pounds. In addition, farmers are free to raise and sell their birds independently, without the need for contracts with large poultry operations.

There are numerous farmers in every part of Georgia raising pastured poultry. According to Georgia Organics’ database, there are more than 50 pasture poultry farmers of varying size and capacity in the state. Many drive to out-of-state processing facilities that are USDA-inspected to process their birds and return to Georgia to sell. Some process on-farm, even though a confusing regulatory framework arguably prohibits this activity.

Recently, Will Harris, a South Georgia farmer and leader in the sustainable farming movement, opened the first USDA-inspected on-farm poultry processing facility in the state of Georgia.

“Chickens were born to scratch and peck. These are natural instinctive animal behaviors,” says Harris, White Oak Pastures owner and founding member of Georgians for Pastured Poultry. “Unfortunately, industrial commodity livestock production removes costs from meat production systems by raising animals in mono-cultural confinement systems that do not allow these instinctive behaviors.”

The poultry raised at White Oak Pastures live on USDA Certified Organic pastureland and have constant and total access to the outdoors. They are chemical-free, meaning they are not given growth hormones or synthetic antibiotics. In addition, grass-based production systems are less reliant on external sources of feed, which can destabilize conventional production systems because of drastic feed price fluctuations.

Because of his effort to create a model of sustainable agriculture, Harris and White Oak Pastures have garnered many certifications and accolades, including the 2011 Georgia Restaurant Association Innovator Award, 2011 Winner of Georgia Small Business Person of the Year, 2011 Recipient of Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award, 2008 Winner of ‘Flavor of Georgia’ food contest, and 2008 Recipient of University of Georgia Award of Excellence.

As the largest private employer in Early County, Ga., the White Oak Pastures business model shows that pastured production methods can be commercially successful alternatives to industrial feedlots.

Advancing Poultry Policy

For four years, Georgia Organics has been working with growers, policy makers, researchers and business consultants to expand opportunities for producers to raise pastured poultry. The organization remains committed to working with key leaders and agencies to advance pastured poultry policies and solutions.

Current on-farm processing policies are obstacles for family farms, and this hurts the entire state’s economy. Restaurants have been some of our strongest allies in bringing more choice to the marketplace to date.

Most other states offer a safe, economically viable option for on-farm processing, and Georgia Organics restaurant members are consistently asking for tips on acquiring pastured poultry from local farms. Our research has shown that pastured poultry can create jobs and strengthen and rebuild rural communities and economies, uniting, if you will, the two Georgias: rural and urban Georgia.

We’re currently advocating for changes in policy to free up the market. We’d need a federal exemption status or new policies from the Georgia Department of Agriculture to provide small farms a safe, economically viable option for on-farm processing.

Perhaps the establishment of a fixed and/or mobile processing facility would fulfill the need. Georgia Organics is currently working on a feasibility study to determine which would be more ideal.

The mission of Georgia Organics is to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. To learn more, visit georgiaorganics.org or call (678) 702-0400.

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Chef Jamie Allred of Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant Helps Grow a Sustainable Community

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

By Helen K. Kelley

Jamie Allred was perusing fresh produce and other local products at the Simply Homegrown Farmers Market in Clayton, Ga., when a farmer approached him about using some of his produce on the menu at Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant, where Allred has been executive chef since 2010.

“At the time, we were hosting Tapas Night every Thursday, offering small plates of Spanish-inspired food,” says Allred. “That week, I came up with small plates that featured the farmer’s certified organically grown leeks.”

The leek dishes were a hit with patrons, and Allred began thinking about incorporating local products into the menu on a regular basis. He decided to keep the popular small plates menu on Thursdays, but did away with the Spanish theme and renamed the evening Featured Farmer Thursday. The Featured Farmer small plates included delicate dishes with exotic flair such as Potato Gnocchi & Padrón Peppers; Escarole, Sausage, & Pinto Bean Dip; Persimmon Griddle Cakes; Asian Pear Salad with Goat Cheese Flan; and Peach Crème Brule.

“I thought this would be a good way to introduce our guests at the hotel and area residents to local food and the people who produce it,” he says, adding that Thursday nights have now become well received and very popular with guests.

Every Thursday night from mid-April through mid-November, the restaurant hosts a local farmer/food crafter from Rabun County and surrounding areas in the northeast Georgia region. Participants include fruit and vegetable farmers and gardeners, honey makers, gristmills, cheese makers and locally raised beef, chicken, pork and goat suppliers. The evening’s menu offers five to seven small plates, all prepared using the featured farmer’s products and supplemented with other local ingredients. Diners are encouraged to try two or three of the reasonably priced plates, which run between $6 and $12 each.

In addition to showcasing their wares on the evening’s menu, Featured Farmer Thursdays give growers the chance to interact with hotel guests and restaurant patrons. The week’s selected vendor is onsite to greet patrons as they come in and mingles throughout the evening to talk with diners and answer questions. A brief bio of the farmer and description of his products is included on the menu. Farmers often give samples of their produce and are invited to make presentations about their products and growing practices to the dining room. Occasionally, tastings of items such as wine or honey are offered during the evening.

Promoting the Sustainable Community

Allred is among a growing number of chefs who are seizing the opportunity to use and promote local food on their menus. According to What’s Hot in 2012, the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of nearly 1,800 professional chefs, locally sourced meats and seafood and locally grown produce were among the top 10 hottest trends for 2012, along with sustainability as a culinary theme.

During the warm weather months, Allred says that about 75 percent of his entire menu throughout the week is locally sourced. On Featured Farmer Thursday, every item on the menu comes from local suppliers, most of whom use organic growing practices. Most of the produce Allred purchases comes from small farmers who grow their vegetables and fruit on an acre or less.

“For some of these growers, farming is a side business, but others are trying to make a living from it,” he says. “Using locally grown foods in our restaurant and giving the farmers a little more exposure to the public than they receive at the markets is a good way to create awareness and promote a sustainable community.”

Initially, Allred asked vendors he met at the Simply Homegrown market to participate in the Featured Farmer program, but the word spread rapidly and soon, other growers throughout northeast Georgia began contacting him. Allred has no shortage of local growers to feature on Thursday nights; he currently has a contact list of more than 50 farms and food  crafters. From time to time, Allred visits the farms himself to assist in harvesting items — which makes for a true farm to table experience for that week’s menu.

The farmers’ wares are purchased at an agreed-upon price (or the farmer may opt for credit at the Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant). Allred makes arrangements for pick-up or delivery by Wednesday each week so that everything can be prepped for the following night’s menu. He’s also found a way to make the process more efficient by ordering many of the week’s items online through the Northeast Georgia link on LocallyGrown.net.

“I can go online on Sunday and buy direct from several different growers at one time,” he explains. “Then, on Wednesday, I go to a specified location to pick up and pay for my order. It saves a lot of time and gas over having to drive to each farm or garden to pick up what I need.”
One week out of the Featured Farmer season is devoted to the Sustainable Mountain Living Communities (SMLC), a non-profit organization working to develop a sustainable food hub in Rabun County. Allred buys produce grown in the MSLC community garden and features it on his menus. All of the proceeds from the garden go back into the organization’s projects, which include free education films and lectures in the community, farmers market sponsorship and development of a community kitchen.

Cost vs. Benefits of Going Local

In general, the cost of food for restaurants is rising weekly due to factors such as increased transportation and fuel, dairy, feed and chemical prices. Even though he has found the cost of local produce and other products to be a little more expensive than buying it through other outlets, Allred says that the expense is offset by the fact that local prices tend to fluctuate less.

“I feel like our menu prices are right in line, if not less than, other restaurants that are similar to us,” he says. “With respect to local fresh food, I have found that the yield is higher than mass marketed items due to less waste — which helps offset the price some. And of course, the greater flavor and more nutrient-dense food offered by local growers is almost priceless.”

Allred says he keeps his costs in line by implementing best practices such as waste control, correct pricing of menu items, proper portions and a weekly inventory process, which helps him manage his weekly food cost percentage.

“I feel like if I have all of these factors in check, I’m less likely to need to pass extra costs on to the customer,” he says. “Our patrons are able to dine at a reasonable price, knowing that all items are fresh, a majority of the items are local, and I (the chef) know the origin of all of the foods that I serve my customers.”

Success All the Way Around

According to Allred, Featured Farmer nights have steadily grown in popularity, not just with hotel guests, but also with local patrons. Between 70 and 100 people take part in each Thursday evening dinner, with summer and fall the biggest seasons. The restaurant’s indoor dining room seats 50 people, and in warmer weather an additional 30 people can be seated outdoors.

“We’ve seen our business more than double since the original Tapas Night we started a few years ago,” Allred states. “Featured Farmer Thursday is so popular now that reservations are highly recommended.”

Additionally, Allred is collaborating with Martha Ezzard, co-owner of Tiger Mountain Vineyards (a regular participant in Featured Farmer nights) on a cookbook that will spotlight the local growers and food crafters. The book will include a bio and three recipes from each Featured Farmer, plus a local wine  section, and is expected to be available for sale later this summer or early fall.

“The Featured Farmer program has been a big success for Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant, its guests and area residents,” Allred says. “The evenings bring members of the community together, offer them fresh foods that are very nourishing, and help many sustainable farms continue to thrive through the purchase of their products and the introduction to many potential future customers.”

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Atlanta Jazz Festival

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

May 26-28, 2012, Piedmont Park, Atlanta. For more information, visit Atlanta Jazz Festival

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Athens-Based Barberito’s Grows to 41 Franchise Locations

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina has announced that franchise contracts have been secured for 15 upcoming locations, with multiple other locations on the horizon. Currently Barberitos has 27 restaurants in five states, with 11 more restaurants that will be located in Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida. Barberitos’ recent growth spurt will push them to the 41 store mark in 2012 for the Athens-based franchise.

Despite the tough economy, Barberitos has seen a 15.8% increase in system-wide sales from 2010 to 2011. Same store sales are up by 10.17% growth of individual store sales over the past three years.  From 2009 to 2010, system-wide sales grew by 14.8%.  As sales increase, requests for franchise consideration seem to increase also.

Committed to serving “farm fresh” food, Barberitos serves only garden-fresh vegetables, which are delivered to stores and hand-cut daily. The restaurant uses fresh, all-natural meats, and all salsas, guacamole, hot sauces, meat marinades and salad dressings are made from scratch daily.

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Bacchanalia Tops Zagat Survey of Atlanta Restaurants

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Bacchanalia was recently named Atlanta’s top restaurant for the 17th consecutive year by the Zagat Survey. Bacchanalia received a 29 out of a possible 30 score on Zagat’s  rating system, and joins the ranks of  just 10 other restaurants nationwide that received this distinction. Bacchanalia also claimed honors for most popular and top service.

The restaurant is the brainchild of chef-owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. Executive chef Daniel Porubiansky and his culinary team of chef de cuisine David A. Carson and pastry chef Carla Tomasko prepare a five-course prix fixe menu that changes nightly and features fresh-grown produce and seasonal flavors, many of which come from Quatrano and Harrison’s Summerland Farm in Cartersville, Ga.

Antico Pizza Napoletana, Aria, Bone’s Restaurant and Valenza followed closely behind with scores of 28. Also included in the top 10 on Zagat’s list were Chops, La Pietra Cucina, Star Provisions, Restaurant Eugene and Sotto Sotto.

 

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Hugh Acheson and Linton Hopkins Named Best Chefs by Beard Foundation

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Two Georgia chefs tied for the title of Best Chefs in America, Southeast region, in the 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards. Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten in Athens and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta were recognized during the recent awards ceremony held in New York City. (Click for more on Linton Hopkins.)

The Best Chefs in America designation honors chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. The Southeast Region is composed of Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Hugh Acheson also won in the Book Awards/American Cooking category for his cookbook: A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen.

Several Georgia chefs, restaurateurs and restaurants were semifinalists in this year’s award program (listed below).

Outstanding Bar Program
• Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta (also owned by Linton Hopkins)
• The Porter Beer Bar (See RestaurantInformer’s recent Q&A with Molly Gunn)

Outstanding Pastry Chef
• Aaron Russell, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta
• Cynthia Wong, Empire State South, Atlanta

Outstanding Restaurateur
• Mike Klank and Eddie Hernandez, Taqueria del Sol, Atlanta

Outstanding Wine Program
• Five and Ten, Athens, GA

Rising Star Chef of the Year
• Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta

Best Chef: Southeast
• Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten, Athens, GA
• Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA
• Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta

To see the full list of winners, visit 2012 JBF Awards.

For the complete list of semifinalists by category, log on to 2012 Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists.

 

 

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Watershed to Open in Historic Brookwood Hills

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Watershed on Peachtree is moving uptown to a new Smith Hanes-designed 175-seat space at The Brookwood, located on Peachtree Road in the heart of the historic Brookwood Hills neighborhood. This latest incarnation of the Southern-inspired farm-to-table eatery that pioneered the Decatur dining scene provides owners Ross Jones, Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers and Chef Joe Truex the space to offer private dining, a patio, an expanded bar area and a wealth of parking.

Truex, along with chef de cuisine Julia LeRoy, will expand on Watershed’s Southern-inspired cuisine with flavors from the Georgia coast to the Louisiana bayou, including the diverse ethnic flavors found throughout the South. Watershed on Peachtree will continue to offer an expansive wine program and will bring back the  celebrated fried chicken night on a new night. Wednesdays will now feature Watershed’s famous fried chicken and biscuits.

The new space will have a casual neighborhood feel.  Located in Atlanta’s only LEED certified high-rise condominium community, diners can expect a focus on green in both the cuisine and the architectural materials, which will reflect the preservation and reclamation aesthetic of the modern south.

 

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Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

May 10-13, 2012, Midtown Atlanta. For more information, visit Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

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Taste of Alpharetta

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

May 10, 2012, Alpharetta, GA. For more information, visit Taste of Alpharetta

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