For many years now I have had the opportunity to work with many of the best farmers across
the country and on the flip side, I have worked with many famous chefs. The two main questions
I hear from the chefs: Is how do you decide to buy produce? And why should I buy my produce from you?
There are many steps that go into making the decision on buying produce. In fact, I believe
there are several major points that go into buying produce starting with the most important
quality. With quality comes success. Being able to buy the highest and best quality of produce
is a major perk. Having a high quality product that is the freshest available means a better flavor,
better plate presentation and a longer shelf life.
Consistency, I think is another important factor in buying produce. You want your purveyor to
be consistent in every aspect. Consistency in quality every week, delivery time everyday and product
labels, because of certain sizing and packaging that comes with each farmer. Without your purveyor
being consistant it makes it very difficult for your restaurant to be consistent.
Variety is another important aspect. It would be nice to be able to buy everything from one person.
Most purveyors carry your basic commodity driven products, but for your upper echelon restaurants that
want the unique herbs, exotic fruits & baby vegetables, it is a bit difficult. Try to get your
purveyor to be experimental and risky, get them to bring in new products, challenge them to find
something you have never seen or tasted before. With a wide variety of products available, the
creative mind of the chef will have no limits. Everyone knows we canít control mother nature, nor
do we have a crystal ball that tells the future, but we do know if the product is out there and is
available, your purveyor better have it. Nothing is more frustrating for the chef than to not have
a product for a dish. No restaurant wants to 86 a dish off the menu for a night. If your purveyor
canít deliver they are risking your reputation as a chef and the restaurantís.
Reputation, the reputation of your purveyor is important, because it could be yours. When buying
from a purveyor you want to know what they are about, what is their goal, their mission, what do
they do that some else canít do, what other restaurantís do they service locally. All of these are
important questions, because you want to share many of these goals with your purveyor. Meaning every
restaurant has the goal to execute the highest quality of food every night, your purveyor should have
that goal in delivering to you. Your restaurant may do something that no other restaurant does in the
city; hopefully your purveyor can do the same amongst other purveyors. Maybe they can deliver to you
at an unusual time, or they can deliver twice if needed.
Price, price, price that is the next factor, some believe price is most important. I disagree.
If a company can deliver the highest quality of produce, the freshest, the most flavorful, the
most unusual, then price shouldnít matter. Someone can sell you baby spinach for a couple dollars
less, but if that product is older you are going to have a shorter shelf life, you may not even get
to use the whole case, your yield will be less. Ultimately you may run out of that product, because
the quality wasnít there and at 7pm realizing you have to 86 a dish, because you thought saving a
couple of dollars was more important then getting better quality.
My final factor in deciding to buy produce is simplicity. A chef works hours that are not
desirable by many. They get to work early in the day and they are there to the early morning hours.
Chefs have to deal with an entire cooking staff a wait staff and all the patrons eating at their
restaurant. The last thing a chef wants to do is have a hard time ordering his food for the next
day. The chef wants it be simple this should be the easiest part of the job. How does it become
simple? It becomes simple when you have availability lists, pictures of product, samples of
product, and prices right at your fingertips.
In closing there are many different items that are important when buying produce, but ultimately
we are looking for the best of the best.
Written by: John K. Fitzgerald