Ask A Charlotte Chef: Farm-To-Fork Philosophy
Charlotte chef Chris Coleman of Harvest Moon Grille sheds some light on the best farmers’ markets in Charlotte and the importance of farm-to-fork dining. Chris Coleman is the executive chef at Harvest Moon Grille that is sadly closing on January 1, 2014, but a new more upscale restaurant with the same respect for the local farming community will be opening in the same space connected to The Dunhill Hotel in 2014.
What is the concept behind Harvest Moon Grille?
The restaurant was started three years ago by Cassie Parsons, who is a pig farmer and owns Grateful Growers Farm. Being a local farmer, she wanted to serve the Charlotte community with a farm-to-fork vision. She wanted to show that you can source locally and serve great food. All of the food—well 96-97 percent—comes from within 100 miles of Charlotte. We purchase whole animals, using all parts. This is the most sustainable, ensuring no waste.
How important is it to connect customers back to the farm?
For Harvest Moon Grille, it is crucial to the restaurant philosophy. We have a blackboard that shows the farms we use, so customers get a sense of the people who are raising what they eat. Everyone that works here values the importance of knowing where their food comes from.
Does Harvest Moon Grille get its products and produce from farmers directly or through distributors?
It is about half and half between farmers and distributors. Our distributors are local and companies that are also committed to buying local.
What is the new restaurant going to feature?
Completely farm-to-fork. We are using the same farmers and adding a few from McNinch House [Chef Coleman’s previous workplace and restaurant]. We’re just going to spruce things up a bit.
What other restaurants in Charlotte do you feel are embracing the farm-to-table movement?
To an extent, almost 100 percent of fine dining establishments. Not using everything local, but every restaurant on Tryon Street is getting something in locally. Having said that—there is a lot to be done. There are some restaurants that are trying like Mimosa and Block & Grinder.
Organic, seasonal, local, fair trade?
Local is the most important. Local encompasses seasonal. You can’t get local tomatoes year round, well maybe at a local greenhouse, but its not the same. Better example—you can’t get local asparagus year round. As for organic, organic practices are used by most local farmers, they just can’t afford to pay for the organic certification.
How important do you think third party certification labels are for the farm-to-table movement?
I don’t think it is important at all. If you are making connection to the farmer, that is important. If you can go to a farmers’ market and shake hands with the farmer, why do you need a third party?
What is the best farmers’ market in Charlotte?
Matthews. Matthews is the most local. Every farmer at Matthews is within 60 miles. Atherton Mill is the coolest, most hip. I like Davidson a lot, too.
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Isabel Sepkowitz is a freelance writer. She is an environmentalist who values sustainability, education, and innovation for the emerging green economy. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.