Provenance of produce 2.0
Date: 05-02-2018 published by Nick Baines
Provenance has been dutifully respected by serious chefs since the early days of the brigade system (and arguably since man first began picking fruit from the finest trees). However, every now and then, the word gets bandied around restaurant menus, websites and supermarket advertising to try and brag about quality and in many cases, justify prices the establishment might feel a bit uncomfortable with.
Most recently, right before the onslaught of gourmet burger chains, there was a flurry of ‘provenance’ self righteousness strewn through food media, insisting that if you didn’t consider terroir, then you couldn’t possibly care about food. While some might have originally seen this as snobbery and elitism, the message of provenance was largely lost in translation and perhaps not delivered as well as it could have been.
Today, I feel barriers have been broken down significantly. Michelin star restaurants are beginning to drop the dress code and allow trainers and scruffy teenage Instragram stars are just as knowledgeable about the soils of Piedmont as your decorated chef from Turin.
But the burger hype is waning, and consumers are turning to a wide range of global cuisines that focus on simple wholesome ingredients. Partnered with the current obsession with plant based diets and ‘wellness’, food service operators and chefs tasked with writing menus might be unsure what direction to take. And so, back to provenance.
You might be quick to mention the farm your steaks come from, or the specifics of the cheese on your cheeseboard, but less is being said about fruit and veg.
We already know that vegetables are now being treated as the main event in many dishes, and with the influx of vegetarianism, veganism and other plant based diets, it’s now a sensible time to start championing and shouting about the provenance of all your produce. Those roasted carrots in your chargrilled wrap – explain where they were grown. If your watercress comes from Dorset, then let it be known. Beyond being poetic and romantic with your menu descriptions, this taps into customers who show a deeper interest in their food, a shift that’s happening in greater numbers than you might expect.
Right now consumers are showing concern over the environmental impact on food production, and so being specific in where your produce comes from can help customer decisions further. When they know your tomatoes are from Norfolk, rather than Argentina, it may just work in your favour.
Listing the source and farm of your vegetables and fruit could be just as helpful to sales as stating how many days your beef has been aged for. At a time when vegetables show the potential to take centre stage for 2018, we should turn to provenance for a greater tasting product, and for a mercantile marketing necessity.
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