When it comes to eating local, the taste, experience and cost are the result of three elements: producing, processing and preparing a product. The final dish is the result of time, care, love and work. “It’s that whole package. The producers take the time to raise the food consciously, the plant processes in a conscious way, and chefs like Ryan at the Ore House create in a conscious way,” said Ian Chamberlain, the general manager at Sunnyside Meats. “With eating, the nutritious or experimental process of eating can become a lifeless or shallow experience if you don’t make an effort to connect with it on some level.”
For Ryan Lowe, the restaurant general manager and chef at the Ore House, offering as much local product as possible was the logical decision. The restaurant had fallen away from working with local farmers after the ease of large-truck distribution arrived in Durango. Lowe started the push back to local produce and meat when he became the head chef seven years ago. “I grew up with that being a predominant thing in my life. My mom grew vegetables and made food from scratch. That was important to me, so that was forefront in my mind,” said Lowe. “We started working with local farmers again.”
The Ore House has worked with Sunnyside Meats, one of many local companies whose product ends up in the Ore House kitchen, for the past ten years. “The Ore House and some of the other local, forward-thinking restaurants were the first to show interest in using local product,” said Chamberlain.
The effort makes a difference, even visually. Aged, dry beef prepared by a master chef provides a different experience than a mystery meat on a plate by a short order cook. “Customers are getting quality product by highly trained, knowledge staff. It’s pretty amazing what Ryan can do with the stuff when you get it into his hands,” said Chamberlain.
At the Ore House, the meal is about the experience, which includes attention to details. Both the food and the drinks are local and all-natural. “When we hire our guys, we’re asking those questions,” said Lowe. “We’re finding out what they eat, where they eat, and what their favorite foods are. We’re trying to draw out that they have a love and respect for fine foods and prepared caringly and produced caringly.”
Chamberlain has noticed the way that restaurants use Sunnyside’s products, and he believes that customers see the difference as well. “I think the way people experience this stuff is how much effort producers, processes, chef and even wait staff put into it,” said Chamberlain. “It all comes down to an experience that the customer is looking for.”
Whatever the cost, the customer has a choice to choose local or commercial. In the end, however, the price is connected to the results and the experience. “The benefits are married to each other. If you’re dealing with a local product, it is a healthy product,” said Chamberlain. “It is not too far from where it was made, or too far from the people who made it.”
This is the third part in a three-part series about The Bottom Line: the Cost of Local, Organic and Sustainable Food. Getting a meal from farm to table requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and consists of producing, processing, and preparing. The Ore House talked with Ian Chamberlain, the general manager of Sunnyside Meats, to discuss the details. This was originally posted on the Ore House’s website during February 2014. Read part one and part two.