The spring issue of Edible Ohio Valley magazine is available now, with (among many other fantastic articles about local food) my profile of Chef Todd Kelly of Cincinnati’s legendary Orchids at Palm Court. You can see the full issue online here.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
For a chef, achieving the laudable goal of sourcing local products can be more difficult than you may think. Seasonality notwithstanding (there’s no such thing as a Southern Ohio tomato in January), there are challenges of availability, quality and capacity.
Chefs need flexibility from their purveyors: slicing tomatoes one week, roma tomatoes the next—and yet farming is anything but flexible, with crops planned and planted months before. It’s difficult for a grower to meet her CSA and market customers’ demands if a chef calls on a Thursday afternoon to order an entire week’s harvest of melons. For farmers accustomed to getting retail prices at farm markets, selling to restaurants at lower wholesale pricing means less revenue per piece or per pound.
Too, local doesn’t necessarily signify higher quality: A cook would rather plate a salad of California mesclun if the local lettuce is sunburned. And then there’s the matter of capacity. At the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farming conference in February, food retailers and entrepreneurs lamented the poor supply of local winter greens, herbs and lettuces, despite government grants that help farmers build hoop houses for cold-weather production. Chefs in our area would jump at the chance to put local cool-season crops on their menus, but the capacity simply isn’t there.
All of which makes what Todd Kelly aims to do as chef of Orchids at Palm Court more noteworthy. Kelly’s food—sophisticated but unfussy, classic yet current, decidedly of its place—is the perfect outlet for local ingredients.