Surprise! Farm-To-Table (At Least In One City) Is A Complete Lie
You guys remember farm-to-table, right? That hip new (well, for a given value of new) trend where restaurants source local food to serve to local customers in an extremely local fashion? Yeah, turns out that in at least one major American city, the trend is a complete sham.
Tampa Bay Times restaurant critic and certified badass Laura Reiley done did some investigative reporting, and discovered that at least in Tampa, Florida, the reality of farm-to-table is a "fairy tale," a castle constructed of lies designed to make people feel better and more responsible about what they're eating at fancy restaurants. Reiley isn't screwing around with this either -- she went all out, seeming to examine every restaurant in Tampa that claims a farm-to-table label. Among others, here are some of the things she found:
- Jackson's Bistro on Harbor Island was selling a "grouper sushi roll" that turned out to be made with tilapia.
- Antonino Casamento claimed to be selling cheese made from prized buffalo milk (which sells for twice as much as cow's milk), but when Reiley went looking for the mere existence of his buffalo herd, it was harder to locate than Narnia.
- At The Mill in St. Petersburg, owner Ted Dorsey claimed everything on his menu came from within a 250-mile radius. Turns out the suppliers he claimed to be sourcing quail, dairy, and produce from had no idea who he (or his restaurant) was.
- Pelagia in Tampa claimed their cheese was from Florida (it was from Italy), their blue crab was from near Miami (it was from the Indian Ocean), and their corn was from near Orlando (when confronted about this, sous chef Tim Ducharme said he was buying it from "someone"). The Times even went so far as to DNA test the crab to identify the source.
- Mermaid Tavern in Seminole Heights wins the prize, though. Their tagline is "Death To Pretenders" and they sell the "Fuck Monsanto Salad" pictured above. They also falsely claim their cheese curds are made in-house, and their "wild Alaskan" pollock is actually Chinese and dosed with preservatives. Oh, and fun fact! The Fuck Monsanto Salad probably contains GMOs. Pardon us while we go laugh hysterically forever at this one.
As far as how all this was possible, it's a devil's cocktail of unscrupulous owners, customers' unwillingness to pay the price for food that actually IS fully local (because that shit is expensive and people are hypocritical dicks), and a MASSIVELY under-regulated industry (just 191 state restaurant inspectors for 40,000 Florida restaurants!). There's also the mounting evidence that, at best, the local food movement doesn't yield any benefit, and at worst is actively harmful, but that's neither here nor there.
But fear not, locavores! We're sure this is purely confined to Tampa. After all, it couldn't possibly be true pretty much everywhere. Nope, perish the thought. Well, except for San Diego. And also probably in your city. Have fun with your locally sourced meals from now on!