Farm-to-fork, or farm-to-table, is a restaurant trend that’s been surging in popularity around the nation for some time.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term. It generally refers to restaurants and chefs using locally sourced food to create a menu that highlights regional homegrown flavors.
From a PR standpoint, the movement also encourages restaurant-goers to seek out and support farmers markets, local green-friendly establishments and the like. The trend perhaps reached its nadir last year, when Philadelphia and the surrounding areas were swarmed with concept restaurants boasting locally grown produce as if they compelled by some legal obligation to do so.
Some were good, others weren’t, and pretty soon, people got sick of the whole “farm-to-fork” thing and went back to Korean taco trucks and gastropubs. In Philadelphia, farm-to-table style restaurant openings surpassed every other kind, and it’s no wonder people got sick of the gimmick.
Which, needless to say, is inherently the problem. Farm-to-fork as a concept, a perfect blend of good food and good intentions, is not a gimmick. It’s the truest celebration of food this side of Thanksgiving, one that revels in the most basic forms of flavor harmonization. For many chefs, it taps into what got them started in this high-stress business in the first place.
So maybe farm-to-fork isn’t a trend, it’s a celebration. And in that spirit, SJ Hot Chefs showcased its 6th Annual Farm to Fork Week.
SJ Hot Chefs is a coalition of South Jersey chefs whose driving purpose is to keep you away from the kitchens of Applebee's and The Cheesecake Factory.
(OK, its website states that their “members have joined forces to let the world know that South Jersey has officially become an outstanding dining destination,” and that they “view dining out as an adventure and a unique and pleasurable experience.”)
But I couldn’t agree more. I’ve long been a vocal proponent of boycotting chain restaurants, and SJ Hot Chefs upholds those same ideas.
It seemed appropriate to experience Farm-to-Fork week at Chef Fred Kellermann’s establishment, Elements Café in Haddon Heights. Kellermann is the president of SJ Hot Chefs and a .
My thinking was, if anybody’s going to do this restaurant week justice, it should be the man in charge, right? Well, my thinking was spot on. I had never eaten at Elements Café before, but I’ll be sure to return. The menu was filled with wonderful little surprises, from roasted eggplant croquettes with a sweet and smoky tomato jam to watermelon wedges in a deliciously creamy feta cheese dressing, not to mention an unexpectedly tart blackberry soup.
Elements Café did everything pretty well. The service was friendly, the dishes were well-executed and the zucchini bread that came under my pan roasted salmon might be my new favorite food.
What I liked most about my meal was its total embodiment of the farm-to-fork movement. The real trick is keeping things simple while maximizing each ingredient, and Elements Café does a tremendous job of accomplishing just that.
-For those who missed either SJ Hot Chefs or Collingswood’s restaurant week, you missed out. Make sure you take advantage the next time either rolls around.
-Follow me on Twitter, @davevaliante! Be sure to let me know what’s going on so I don’t leave anything out.