Chefs in Atlanta can have food flown in daily from all over the world. So why are so many of them turning to growers right here for their food source? To find out I spoke with Michael Tuohy, Chef and Owner of Woodfire Grill and on the board of Georgia Organics.
Q.Why do you think it’s important to cook with locally grown foods?
A. First, you know where your food is coming from. I like being able to have dialog with the person that grew it. Second, it is supporting our own community. This is an important step in promoting sustainability. Third, chances are what you get is something that is usually just hours out of the ground and in season. It didn’t sit in cold storage for days, weeks or even months in some cases, 3,000 miles away. The quality and freshness will result in a much better tasting, healthier product. Fourth, it’s much better for our environment.
Q. Do you think this is becoming a trend, and if so, why?
A. I really hope that it is. It seems to be. The media is showing a much broader interest in local foods, organic in many cases, and grown by small family farms. There is a growing concern among consumers about the safety and well being of our food supply. Young mothers think they are doing the right thing by serving “healthy” foods to their children only to find that the spinach may have been contaminated with e. coli or some other toxic bacteria. The industrialization of our food supply has reached an all-time production high but at what cost? We are in danger of loosing our crop diversity and quality and our ability to produce locally farmed foods grown with care. This cannot have a sustainable effect on our communities.
Q. What are some of your favorite local products to cook with?
A. Greens! I love the “braising greens” we get from the local farms. We get a mixture of these sturdy greens, which are typically baby collards, kales, and mustards all mixed together. We cook them in a French steel pan over the wood grill in a little butter, chicken stock with roasted garlic. They pick up this ethereal smoky flavor that makes you not ever want to stop eating them!
I like pork from Curtis White of Tamworth Farm, in Dublin, GA. He really cares for his animals. I love soft shell crabs from the Gulf or the Carolinas and white shrimp and grits & polenta from Anson Mills.
For more information on Georgia Organics, visit www.georgiaorganics.org. Woodfire Grill is at 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-347-9055, www.woodfiregrill.com