Purity on the Plate
By Liesel Schmidt
The restaurant industry—or, more accurately, the food industry as a whole—has undergone a shift in focus, a desire to know that ingredients are not only the highest in quality, but also the freshest and the purest. We want to know what’s in the foods that we’re eating and where it came from. We want its timeline and lifeline tracked from start to finish.
From seed to spoon.
From farm to fork.
From dirt to dish.
We want to know its pedigree—where it was raised, what it ate (or didn’t), what extra curricular activities it enjoyed. When we order a steak, we want to know that before Bessie became dinner, she was a local gal; and that, should we have taken it upon ourselves to gambol about a nearby cattle farm, we might have made her acquaintance.
It’s not a case of snobbery but rather than a concern for the bigger issues: the impact our food supply makes on the environment as well as the way that what we’re feeding our faces affects our bodies. We want to know that our fish has been caught in local waters and was still enjoying the good life until a few hours ago and that our fried chicken habit is not loading our systems with harmful chemicals and hormones.
We want our food to do more than just taste good—we want it to be good. And for that reason, we’ve turned our attention to the local farms and fisheries that can feed our hunger with products that feed the local economy, reduce environmental impact, and cut down on waste.
“I believe that the whole concept of farm to table cuisine reflects a sense of pride and passion that we take in our work and really instills a sense of community and connection within the food industry,” says Tyler Jarvis, founder and operating partner of Jackacuda’s and Brotula’s restaurants. “Having the opportunity to meet the farmers, see their practices, and learn their philosophies on their crops and animals helps ensure that the product we are receiving is of the highest quality and handled properly,” he continues. “As a restaurant owner or chef, that’s extremely important because it allows you to fully showcase your talents and knowledge of these amazingly fresh ingredients and turn them into memorable experiences for the guests. When we’re creating our signature items, it’s paramount to us that we have the freshest produce available to complement our amazing local Gulf seafood—and the plate of food that results from that is phenomenal.”
Such sentiments are shared and evidenced in the cuisine at Harbor Docks, as well. “We’re very much involved with the Gulf to table movement and the focus it brings to the people and places that supply fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico,” says owner Eddie Morgan. “It’s a question of purity and health and maintaining a standard, so we’re passionate and dedicated to supplying excellent products to our guests and offering them nothing but the freshest, highest quality seafood from the Gulf of Mexico in each dish we serve.”
“All of the seafood that we use in our restaurant is caught locally everyday and brought in right away for us to clean and portion, and that provides a quality that you can taste in the food,” adds Dewey Destin executive chef Jim Shirah. “We want everything as fresh as we can possibly get it, from our seafood to our produce, that creates cuisine that’s clean, safe, and really just excellent in flavor,” he continues. “This whole movement of farm to table food is important for people who are looking for ways to eat healthier and cleaner, but it’s also a great way to create a system of strength within the local business community because we’re supporting local farmers and fisherman.”
Supporting the local guy is an important theme, whether that means a local produce farm, a local cattle ranch, or local fishermen; and that’s a point of pride for area businesses—trickling all the way down to the marinas. “In developing the property along the marina, it was important to us to have a Gulf to table seafood restaurant, so we screened our tenants carefully to ensure that the restaurateur to whom we leased our restaurant space would provide the freshest fish available,” says Mary Anne Windes, managing partner of the Destin Fishing Fleet Marina. “The fishing fleet that goes out from the marina everyday is also a huge contributor to the movement—many of the boats not only charter fish, but also commercial fish; and they sell their seafood to one of the local Gulf to table vendors, which then supply restaurants in our area.”
It’s a circle of support, a purity that benefits everyone involved—feeding the local economy, respecting the environment, eating in a way that venerates the body. It’s a difference you can taste…and boy, does it taste good.