As I write this blog post, I happen to be in Avon, Colorado, celebrating the July 4th holiday. I have already visited two local farmers markets…one in Minturn, Colorado and the other in Edwards, Colorado. This area has multiple farmers markets each week and it is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting in July. Our vacation is spent enjoying the natural beauty of this area located in the Rocky Mountain National Park, but more importantly, we love taking advantage of the great restaurants and the local foods available in the height of the summer season. The local tomatoes, peaches, berries, squashes, fresh and smoked river trout, mountain herbs, grass fed meats, dairy and artisanal products make this a truly special experience.
As a chef, I try to support local and enjoy the local products on any vacation I may take. Actually, our journeys are usually chosen based on the foods available in those regions. I am lucky to live in Northeast Ohio where we have 4 distinct seasons. I plan my menus utilizing special products that are available each month of the year. I love the winter months that offer hearty greens, brassicas, eggs, cheeses, meats, honey, jams, milled grains, and even the jarred or canned products that offer memories of the past and glimpses of the future abundant summer season. Spring brings the maple syrup. ramps, spring garlic, radishes, hearty spinach, eggs, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries. Summer can be deliciously overwhelming with the pea tendrils, squash blossoms, salad greens, herbs, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, squashes, tomatoes and sweet corn, not to mention the many other surprises that appear each week. Fall brings the many varieties of onions, potatoes, apples, beets and hard squashes. I’m always looking forward to incorporating these products into my meals at home, but more importantly, it helps guide my purchasing for my restaurant menus.
Whenever possible, I try to support our local farm community by purchasing their products. As a local business owner, it is important to support these hard working entrepreneurs. They give us the ingredients that make the meals so memorable in my restaurants. It is my pleasure to support these hard working people and it gives me joy, knowing that I am helping to support our local economy. Community is about supporting and caring for one another. I like to instill this value for my family and for those on my team. I am also helping to pass along this value to those that support me and my restaurants.
I like to educate my teams on the importance of buying local. Not only does our food taste better, but we are more careful with these great ingredients, we waste less and learn to create more interesting dishes. Think of these local farms as providing the palate that we use to create the dining experience. We can share stories about these farms and ingredients and provide connections to those in our community. We can share and market these goods to our customers who then enjoy buying these foods at their local markets. Without the local food, the dining experience lacks depth, we ignore our local terroir or connection to our local environment. We are lucky to be able to tell our unique story to those that visit from our neighborhood, but also to those visiting our community from far away places. We can take pride in our local food economy and teach visitors how impressive our local food economy truly is.
I enjoy promoting local farmers, but I also enjoy supporting my industry in a local way. As the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” by Pete Seeger goes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose”. Having a sense of purpose and a sense of time and place is what the restaurant experience is all about. People enjoy restaurants for the experience they provide. We give people the time and place to celebrate all that life has to give. The ingredients are the basis for this experience. For me, who better to connect with to provide this experience than our local farmers and artisans. Support your local farmers and markets, including the Countryside farmers’ markets and the farmers located right here in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I hope to see you soon and I hope you find the special ingredients and farms that make your food more nurturing and delicious.
Chef Douglas Katz
Cleveland Chef Proprietor of Zhug, Amba (opening in late 2021) and Chimi (opening in late 2022). Chef Proprietor of Fire on Shaker Square (closed due to the pandemic, after 20 years in March of 2020).