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National Restaurant Association - Foraging for local sources

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Foraging for local sources

Restaurants that want to feature local foods might have an easier time finding the ingredients if they added a few phrases to their vocabulary, a speaker suggested at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

The session, “Is There a Forager in Your Future," brought together three veteran foragers who agreed to share their methods for finding local sources. The term foraging describes the process of finding adequate supplies of locally produced foods.

Jay Keller, chef-forager for Bon Appetit Management’s operations at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., reeled off several sourcing suggestions that had his fellow panelist-foragers nodding their heads in recognition. 

The terms he aired seemed far less familiar to the operators in the audience. He had to explain these phrases in particular:

• Micro-processing, or preserving small batches of local, seasonal foods for use throughout the year. The prime methods, he said, are canning, freezing and drying. Keller cited an operation that bought a local grower’s tomatoes, canned the whole lot and featured them as local tomatoes throughout the winter.

• Bee clubs, or associations of beekeeping enthusiasts. Keller explained that beekeeping has become a popular hobby in many areas of the country, and many of the hive keepers produce more honey than they can use. Buying from a bee club could allow a foodservice establishment to feature local honey year-round.

•Mycology clubs, or groups of people in an area who enjoy heading into the woods and fields to pick mushrooms. There again, Keller suggested, a club could provide a single source of reasonable volume.

Keller was joined on the panel by Dave Spear, the Midwest forager for Whole Foods Market, and Dave Rand, the former farm forager for Chicago’s green markets. The panel discussion was one of more than 70 education sessions at the NRA Show, which ends today in Chicago.

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