Q for the Pros: Farm to Table - Reality? or Dream?

Joined May 12, 2011
Currently, I am owner/operator of a pizza restaurant in Arkansas. We do everything (except meat) fresh daily. We cut the veggies in house, make our own dough, etc. However, it is more of a franchise/bulk food concept, even though we have all kinds of great tasting specialty pizzas.

It is my first restaurant and I licensed the name and recipes and opened up. It has been GREAT! I love it!

This experience has started me thinking about my "dream restaurant". I have the urge to attend a serious culinary school and open a much smaller gourmet joint focused on fresh seasonal foods, all purchased locally & organic if possible.

Here are a few of my questions:
  • Does the FDA prohibit this from actually working on a practical level?
  • What concessions/compromises do you make when you attempt to make "everything" in house? eg: If you offer ranch dressing, shouldn't you make that yourself? As well as your pasta sauces and even the noodles? Or do people in these types of concepts compromise and buy the noodles, but make the sauce?
  • If you live in an area that goes through bad winters, or winters in which everything dies, how do you buy product? Do you write a disclaimer on the menu that says things will be purchased out of area seasonally? Or do you shut down for 3 months?
If anyone has worked in a restaurant that has attempted this or knows any resources, I would be very interested in the discussion.

I am not into "global warming" or "climate change" but I am into conservation of our resources and living sustainably off of the land vs foods with additives and preservatives processed & packed in a factory in some other country and shipped into my restaurant! Yuk!

Any info would be appreciated. Thank you for your professional opinion.

Joined Apr 6, 2010
I would like to commend you are pursuing your dream. Might I offer some advice,first research the area you are going to, as you stated you are in AR, not to many oceans their. Next with the developments of the last few years might I suggest that you do some very heavy research on the fish in your area, you will find out much like crops, fish runs seasonal as well.

The developments of the last year years and kept pretty quiet is the Chemical contamination of fish from different areas, do to the controversy I will not name names per say. As a example though the Gulf Coast is still hurting, The reality with good intentions aside I do believe you are hurting yourself by 100% local while commendable it is not very realistic.

Your local Health department can assist you in answering your questions on the products,what is wrong with stating local fish are used when in season and available. In today's market and with more and more fish and crustaceans coming from farms, it is really going to be hard to stay local. If you do clams or Oysters they are from different seasons and different parts of the Country and Globe.

I hope this helps in someway and I do wish you the best on you adventure.
Joined May 12, 2011
I appreciate the feedback.

You are right about finding out about the fish. In Arkansas, you have to watch mercury content and fish farms are being tilled in to grow corn for ethanol. So, we have limited access to fresh water fish. That is why Catfish is so hard to find these days.

We have some access to seafood out of Louisiana. Reports we are hearing are that the Gulf has recovered pretty well already, but it isn't cheap. The problem now is that some fishers went out of business and are slow to return.

I have more access to beef, pork, chicken, deer, turkey, etc -- but would the FDA/Health Regulators allow me to purchase from a local and process it locally? I don't know.

You are exactly right when you said, "The reality with good intentions aside I do believe you are hurting yourself by 100% local while commendable it is not very realistic."  As I thought more and more about it, it is nearly impossible to go "100% local." If you say 100%, then doesn't that includes your herbs, seasonings, salt & pepper? I don't know of anyone that can be "100% local*" without qualifications or disclaimers -- eg: "*Produce & meats purchased locally when possible" or something.

It seems to be easier to say, "100% Natural, Fresh Foods" and "Purchased locally when in season".
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Anything is possible if you work for it. You first have to establish Where this place will be and will the clientel match your concept. As far as all local almost impossible 52 weeks a year . But Local whenever possibloe is good no one could ask for more.. Fish  not local but from approved sources. Meat and chix if you can  Great.  All  your meat and poultry must be inspected for wholesomness by FDA. And as long as you are feeding public the local Health Dept is reqired for permits. You will have to price your menu according to your premium cost.

Good Luck

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