Nowadays, it’s a pretty prevalent opinion that local is better. Especially in these times, as food insecurity increases and food ecosystems are becoming weaker and we move toward mass production and lab-grown crops from distribution centers far away, it’s comforting to know your food was was farmed in your home state.
Oak Steakhouse on Sharon Road in SouthPark has recently rolled out a new seasonal menu that highlights dishes made with ingredients from farms in North and South Carolina. Chef Alex Jenkins, the culinary mind behind the SouthPark Oak Steakhouse location, cultivated relationships with farmers from the Carolinas for the updated menu.
For Jenkins, it’s important to support the Carolina farms. After all, it’s much like supporting a local business in the city, except at the dinner table.
“I think the most important thing is just supporting them. They’re out there working hard to provide for their families as well as we are but I think it’s important that people are eating local ingredients rather than getting it from a supplier that’s based out in Philly,” Jenkins explained. “Why not support your local farmer and buy what he has that you can get access to right here in North Carolina and South Carolina?”
The farms that Jenkins have sourced from across the two states include Tega Hills Farm in Fort Mill, South Carolina; Chapel Hill Creamery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Joyce Farms in Salem, North Carolina; Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork in Goldsboro, North Carolina; and Sunny Creek Farms in Tryon, North Carolina.
Farm-to-table restaurants are not a new concept in this city. There are plenty of eateries around Charlotte that support farmers as an integral part of our country’s food ecosystem, but Jenkins ensures that the menu changes reflect the changing harvests as well.
The burrata salad, for example, uses mixed leafy greens from local farms but switches out the fruit topping that ties the dish together.
“We were using apples but those are going out of season,” Jenkins said. “Now we’re using strawberries, and when the peaches come in season, which is really soon, we’ll update the menu and switch over to peaches.”
In addition to fresh fruit-topped salads, the menu has a variety of main dishes like the roasted chicken breast with roasted corn grits, tomato, shishito and pan ju that features poultry from Joyce Farms (pictured right).
Jenkins sees a huge benefit of restaurants sourcing from in-state farmers. As unrealistic as it sounds, if everyone could source local, that could have a positive impact for everyone involved, he said.
“If everybody gets on board it will only increase the production that the farmers that are doing,” Jenkins stated. “[If] all the restaurants get on board supporting local farmers, it will be a huge impact in the food world. If everybody gets on board, it’s going to benefit the restaurants and the farmers.”