Farm-to-table restaurants have proliferated in recent years, but not all are created equal: Much depends on where the ingredients are sourced and what the chef does with them. The pioneer in Naples is Jeff Mitchell from The Local, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last fall. When NI recently caught up with Mitchell, he provided some insight into his relationship with his purveyors, as well as why he chooses them.
Inyoni Organic Farm:
“I met Nick Batty, the owner, before I opened the restaurant. His farm is within 10 miles of the restaurant, and he grows pineapples, mulberries, and other tropical fruits that no one else is bothering with; we’re small enough that we can use things that don’t make it to a farmers market. He also gives us the opportunity to select the seeds we want, and he grows them to order for us.”
Blue Star Seafood:
“This is a tiny business in Fort Myers run by two sisters. They’re fussy about what they sell and I’m fussy about what I buy, so our relationship works. I get snapper and cobia from them, along with less well-known varieties such as triggerfish.”
Palmetto Creek Farms:
“Jim Wood, the owner, has been like a second father to me. I’ve visited the property north of Sebring and seen how they raise their hogs: He has lots of acorn trees, and the animals are fattened naturally. We use his pork in many of our dishes, and we cure our own meats.”
Circle C Farm:
“We buy eggs from them, as well as lamb and chicken. They’re USDA inspected and certified, and the animals are pasture-raised. They’re the most flavorful chickens I’ve ever had—it’s an expensive product, but worth it. I’m inspired by their integrity.
“We’re all working together for the same goal. We want to provide the healthiest possible food for our families, and improve the quality of life for the community.”