Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Farm to Table, Montgomery Builds Relationships to Become Food Capital
By Heather VacLav


 

Buying local. We hear it all the time, but do we actually stand by it?
 
There are some chefs in Montgomery who are priding their restaurants on buying local, farm-fresh produce and protein, and serving it up to turn Montgomery into a food capital.
 
In fact the Alabama Restaurant Association says local trends in the food industry are changing Montgomery for the better.
 
Executive Chef and General Manager of Railyard Brewing Company, Leonardo Maurelli, says farm to table is nothing more than putting supper on the table.
 
“One locally grown tomato might be three times as nutritious of a tomato as one that's traveled 2,000 miles, so while the local one might cost you more, the equal value of one, is almost three or four of the ones that are being shipped in,” Maurelli explained.
 
This value is helping the capitol city create a triple threat, with local culinary trending restaurants, its surrounding farms and EATSouth urban farms on top of curbside farmer's markets.
 
“Montgomery is very lucky to have an amazing forward thinking mayor, and government that really support what we're trying to do,” Maurelli said.
 
Director of City Development and President of the EATSouth board, Chad Emerson, says Montgomery’s strategy is different than other cities in the state and across the nation. He says it’s all about developing the food first. 
 
“You cant find many cities in the US, where they take a piece of property, reinvest it, remediate it and turn it into a downtown farm that produces healthy food for its residents,” Emerson said.
 
In fact, the "eat local, buy local" mindset is bringing in award winning chefs like Maurelli and Wesley True to Montgomery.
 
“I moved here right when Montgomery started growing, and I want it to turn into something like Birmingham,” True said. True is the executive chef and owner of True restaurant in Montgomery’s Cloverdale neighborhood. He moved to Montgomery from Mobile where his other restaurant, True Midtown Kitchen, is open.
 
As Montgomery gets on the map, this week Chef Maurelli was able to host TV celebrity Top Chef superstar Kevin Sbraga in the capital city.
 
“He'll have 500 offers a year to go places and he picked this place, that's a sign that there's something special happening here,” Emerson said.
 
Chef Maurelli says it’s all about keeping dollars in Montgomery.
 
“Instead of spending however much gas it takes to get you to Birmingham, what if you keep all of that here? What if you support local, wherever local is to you,” he said.
 
Emerson says Montgomery is trying to improve the quality of life and educate residents about how easy it is to eat local at home and support local businesses.
 
“We can be a great food destination; we really think that in the next 10 years, we will be one of the premier food destinations in the Southeast,” Emerson said.
 
Eat Local Information:
 
http://www.eatsouth.org/
http://hampsteadinstitute.org/