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What Does It Take To Run A Farm-To-Table Restaurant In San Diego?

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What Does It Take To Run A Farm-To-Table Restaurant In San Diego?
GUESTS: Trish Watlington, owner, The Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar Troy Johnson, dining critic, San Diego Magazine

Some restaurants in San Diego are misleading and their customers according to Farm to Fable article. Brighter Troy Johnson joined us on the day addition to explain that some restaurants that don't buy from local farms often claim they do. The fraud is hurting the economies of local growers. After that show aired, we got an email about the challenges faced by restaurants who want to serve farm to table. Joining the art Troy Johnson and dining critic Troy Johnson, dining critic, San Diego Magazine. Also Trish Watlington, owner, The Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar. Troy, tell us what response you got. We got massive response. We also got negative response saying it was gutless of me not to name the actual restaurants that were committing fraud. Of which, we are taking steps to identify people who are intentionally defrauding the public and claiming to use specific local farms when they know they are not. We had stories come in that set they were delivering local produce place to peel off the stickers that said grown in Washington. We are following up on all that. Really the big request of readers has been, tell me which people we should be patronizing. Trish from the front door really does it right.. Let's define what were talking about. What defines a real farm to table restaurant. I would like to go on the record saying I hate the label farm to table. Why? Everything comes from a farm. For me, we're moving toward the term ethical sourcing or honest tables, something that says we've done our very best to make sure the produce has been humanely raised and ethically sourced is best for the environment and our community. And everyone is going to eat it. That is the essence of what is supposed to mean? Yes. It's a great origination term. It meant the restaurant was directly interacting with the growers, ranchers and pulling it to their table. Now, anybody can claim farm to table including Walmart, Denny's. Somewhere it comes to a farm. A massive monocultural in Iowa. Anybody can say that. They're slapping it on their Windows and they're not using it. It came from a farm somewhere. Trish, why did you want to open farm to table restaurant? We weren't when we opened. We were a traditional restaurant and after a year of being opened, I realized in my heart of hearts going up in farm country in Maryland, having lived on a farm myself, I can look at myself in the mirror and to a traditional restaurant. That's when we decided we put in a garden and started growing our own. I have great love for farmers. For me and Chuck carry, getting to actually know the farmers we buy from is he tries. We want to do what's best for them. We want to get to know them. What to befriend them. There are real challenges that face restaurants who want to do this consistently, isn't that right? Yes. One of the challenges, one may have eggplant and not squash, they'll have item maybe not I didn't be. You end up going to six or seven different armors on any given day or ordering from them. As opposed to just calling up your Representative and getting everything you need. The other problem is it's not just parties and that's the thing that people forget, it's meat and dairy. Ethical sourcing is about where your flower comes from. Went back to get my flower from a wheat grower who can credit here, yes. That's not an option. Every single thing in the chain needs to have a decision made. Is it really better for me to get my beef from California or should I get from Australia. The ethical decision-making is Byzantine. Also because we have no tarry here in San Diego, we don't have any meat processing plants, it only makes it more difficult restaurants who want to provide this ethically based and sourced ingredients. This is what the bigger conversation is about. This is why these farm to table registrants matter. They are trying to create local food ways. Sustainable local systems that can be our local populace. Somebody can grow ranch meet here in San Diego but we cannot eat it. We cannot buy it or eat it and assume want to buy at eight, quarter or full animal. In order for them to feed their meat into restaurants or retail, they have to take care of these eggs and animals with such care and at the end of the day put them on a truck, ship them up to Modesto or Northern California to have them slaughtered at a USDA approved slaughterhouse. At which point, pigs lose a 50% of the body with from their stress. Some say they don't even know the meat coming from the backside is from their animal. Are there any plans in the works to have a local slaughterhouse here or more access to the kinds of food we already are growing here. There some activism owing on. Their plans to lobby the legislature to relax rules and regulations to have disclaimer on your menu that says this was purchased from a local farmer but not processed in a USDA plant. And keeping my fingers crossed. Why can't you get local milk? I can't get unpasteurized milk or raw milk. All but two dairies in San Diego County all send their milk to a milk cooperative. There's no way. I am not allowed by law to buy directly, them. It's not only a question of some food not grown or made here, even if it is, you can't get access to it. Even with fish you have to be careful where you get that. Even if the fishes caught here, it's taken out to international waters and processed on a Chinese ship. You have no idea how it's being processed. What does it mean to have farm to table seasonal menu in San Diego? What does that look like the restaurant -- restaurateur forgot to have to change your menu all the time. Our menu is flexible. Our menu never says your estate comes with garden beans because it may be the end of this weekend squash next week. We had dishes on the menu like the farm to fork that are whatever vegetables are in season and they are made with the chimichurri sauce. The vegetables change as time goes on. Our menu changes a lot. Something under menu changes every 2 to 3 weeks. I knew you specifically wanted to talk about this. I'm wondering why customers don't understand this way of sourcing food comes with limitations. I think customers don't understand the great amount of time and energy it takes to do this completely. When someone tells you they are farm to table restaurant, if they really mean that and they are really doing it they are doing something special. It's hundreds of extra hours not put if you're ordering off a truck. In that sense, do you think there are a lot of restaurant -- restaurants that opened with good intentions that they had really wanted to provide these locally sourced and sustainable forms of food. They ran into problems and it turned into too much work. Almost every single one. There just so many experts in San Diego that said there are only a handful of restaurants that are really doing farm to table. Once you get into sourcing, instead of calling one 800 number or going online and clicking, it is so much incredible work and so much extra cost. It's doing something great our local systems. They are built into their eyes and check out their operations and said they are doing exactly how I would raise an animal. That's huge. Farmworkers of the most mistreated people in the entire country. To be able to buy from someone I know is treating their workers correctly, is gigantic. There are some things, we finally made arrangements with two different firms to grow potatoes for us. Getting potatoes locally sourced has been a nightmare. Since it is such a challenge to get this ethically sourced menu, Troy, is this movement still crying or has it a sickly stopped in its tracks? I think the movement is dead. People have taken it and used as a marketing term. It's a more dead than alive. You have a few restaurants on range that are doing it right and spending the time. Nine times out of 10, you hear the term farm to table, it's not true to what the original term meant. What possibility to restaurant patrons have in all of this? Do they need better education, they have to know they have to pay for it if they want this kind of sourced? Yes. We need to realize if you want a tomato in January, don't. At the end of the day, that's it. We should be growing in season. With we are going out of season we are not in harmony with what the land was to produce. Return to really squeeze it out of the land. We have to go through so many invasive techniques for our soil and farms to get to the plate what you want. That winter strawberry which was grown a set of equatorial country will women don't have rights let alone reproductive rights and there's almost slavery going on in the farms. That's how that got to your plate. In season and then what that means. Trish, a lot of people go to restaurants and want the same thing when they go back. Should that be rethought? Yes. It's a challenge. We have had people walk out of the restaurant because they didn't get what they had before. As diners, we need to ask questions. We need to say it's June and your menu says you have cauliflower. How is that? Your server should be able to ask the questions of where the produce came from? Yes. Answer honestly. There are times when we are going to say that potato came from an organic farm in Kansas or Idaho because we can't get it here but we will tell you where we got a.

A San Diego Magazine report on restaurants that claim to offer “farm-to-table” goods is raising questions among local foodies.

The challenge in operating farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego was highlighted in a Midday Edition interview last month that focused on an investigation by the magazine’s dining critic, Troy Johnson.

According to Johnson’s report, certain unnamed restaurants that claim to serve organic, locally sourced ingredients are really serving commodity produce.

“We got a massive response on this,” Johnson told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “The biggest request from readers is, ‘Who should we be patronizing?’”

But having a farm-to-table restaurant isn’t easy.

Trish Watlington, owner of the Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar, which was just named San Diego’s Best Farm-to-Table restaurant by the magazine, said she sometimes has to order from six to seven different farmers on any given day.

“The other problem is it’s not just produce — it’s meat and it’s diary,” Watlington said.

Watlington, who grew up among farms in Maryland, said she enjoys getting to know her local farmers but dislikes the label put on restaurants.

“I really hate the label ‘farm-to-table’ because everything comes from a farm,” Watlington said. “For me, we’re moving toward the term ‘ethical sourcing’ — something that says we’ve done our very best to make sure it’s humanely raised and is best for our community.”