Greg Baker, chef-owner of the Refinery in Tampa, Florida, is a 20-year kitchen veteran, having worked in Portland, Oregon, and Austin before opening his James Beard–nominated restaurant in 2010.
So does local matter? Yes, but that begs clarification. I buy produce from a variety of local farms, some certified organic, some with organic practices but not certified and some that are conventional but utilize best management practices. As different as they all are, I know that I am buying produce that is fresh and nutrient-dense because of the short trip from farm to my cooler, and grown in a manner that doesn’t harm the environment. This is where “sustainably grown” comes into play. Organic doesn’t mean a damn thing to me if it refers to a lemon that was organically grown in Israel and traveled halfway around the world to get to me. Nor do I give a rat’s ass if something is labeled organic but grown in a monoculture. I’ve toured Big Ag tomato farms a couple of hours south of me while visiting with the Coalition of Imokkalee Workers; the type that Barry Estabrook wrote about in Tomatoland. I found myself in what was essentially a desert of tomatoes — no border land, no birds in the sky to be seen. I asked the meaning of a segregated tomato desert and was told “that’s our organic section.” So local doesn’t necessarily imply sustainability. That doesn’t mean that sustainability doesn’t exist locally to you, but you’re probably not going to find it in Big Ag growing operations.
…So for anyone who is still with me, you’re probably wondering why I’m so fucking angry. It’s because there are real-world economic consequences to lying about sourcing. Not for the liars of course, who got caught lying and have lied more to cover their own asses. I’ve been scratching by for six years on very narrow margins, living up to what I claim, while others have rolled it in by lying to their customers. That’s one thing. But people saying that they’re okay with being lied to?