While New York City's subway system rumbles just a few hundred miles away, the Farmhouse restaurant is constantly working to utilize another local system in New York: small-scale agriculture. Chef Kevin London and wife Kimberly Feeney operate the famous Farmhouse restaurant in Lake George, New York. More than just a restaurant that focuses on local ingredients, Kevin and Kim spearheaded the development of their very own 5-acre farm, which provides 80 percent of the freshest seasonal ingredients to the Farmhouse. The restaurant diligently sources everything from the area that they don't grow themselves. They even bring in whole or half animals, which they butcher on site so that all parts can be used. The restaurant's entire selection of dairy products are New York State produced, and all of the restaurant's grains come from local growers. We caught up with Kevin as one of our featured sustainable chefs and farmers for our Earth Day celebration!
Organic Authority: Why did you and your wife start your own farm for the Farmhouse restaurant?
Kevin London: There is no Farmhouse without the farm. The restaurant only came to be as a result of having the land to grow on. That is the reason that we decided to leave NYC for northern NY. We felt that we could embrace and fully complete the Farm and Table concept in a truly beautiful place and jumped at the opportunity at a young age.
OA: You describe Farmhouse as a collaboration between you and your wife, how do you two work together?
KL: We work together in every aspect of the operation. From developing a seeding schedule and selecting seed types in the winter all the way through her helping to expedite in a busy kitchen. I am able to burden a lot of the farm work in the early spring and late fall while she is managing the opening and closing of the resort, and she drives the harvesting and cultivating through the season. She is very much the face of the restaurant and does an amazing job of creating a professional and impressive dining room, with a very young and seasonal crew, which enables me to create and execute menus the way I want.
OA: Do you work with outside local farmers?
KL: For produce we buy a bit from some selected growers, potatoes, winter root crops, sweet corn and some fruit, but we grow the vast majority of what we need on site. We source almost exclusively from other local producers, whenever we can find the product. Our meat comes in as whole or half animals, that we then butcher, from people that we feel raise the absolute best possible livestock in our region. We feature NY cheeses all over our menu. Our milk is delivered weekly from a privately owned dairy and creamery. We buy most of our whole grains and dry beans from NY producers as well as our flour, which comes from a small farmer owned mill. We have even found a NY producer growing and pressing their own canola oil for cooking purposes. Additionally we work with a handful of local foragers.
OA: Wow. That's so impressive! Why is it important to you to support local sustainable farmers?
KL: We are passionate about supporting local producers for a number of reason. We feel first and foremost that we are surrounded by some of the very best producers in the country and that their amazing products make it easier for us to run the caliber of restaurant that we strive to.
OA: What drives your menu creation?
KL: My mornings working in the field always drive the decisions that I am making when I write a menu each afternoon. I am always trying to communicate the quality and beauty of the products to our customers with what I put on the plate.
OA: How are you actively involved in the local community?
KL: In addition to growing food for the restaurant, we sell at two different weekly famers markets. We sell produce as well as a line of prepared foods. We have worked with the local school districts in Michelle Obama’s Recipe for Healthy Kid’s Challenge and have ambitions to continue to expand our role with the local schools. Kim and I were founding members of a regional Slow Food Chapter and have worked extensively at trying to create more connection between other regional chef’s and growers.
OA: What does sustainability mean to you?
KL: Sustainability means something that can be done time and time again without harming or preventing present or future successfulness. Be it tending to seeds in the ground or running a business, it is essential that there is foresight to enable longevity.
OA: Why is it important for American's to get to know where their food comes from, how it was raised and their farmers?
KL: I believe that Americans are becoming more aware of where and from whom there food is coming from. I think that it is only logical that we would want to know where and how the fuel that keeps us alive is produced.
OA: How can America help revive the regional local farmer infrastructure that disappeared over 50 years ago?
KL: Demand regionally sourced products at your local grocery store. When asked enough, they listen!
OA: What cooking tips do you have to inspire the home chef to cook more seasonally?
KL: Ask questions! Go to farmers markets and explore and ask friends, family, chefs, growers and other market patrons. But I think that we ought to ask more questions of our elders who grew up cooking seasonally and in larger part with locally produced products because that was what was available. Those traditions, stories and recipes should be cherished and used as the building blocks of more cuisine.
OA: What is your must have, go-to home cooking tool?
KL: A 2 ½” serrated pairing knife, we use them for everything.
OA: What are your favorite must-have home pantry staples?
KL: Lemon Juice, Kosher Salt, Butter, Siracha, Maple Syrup, Brown Rice, Corn Tortillas, Cheddar Cheese, Chili Flakes.
OA: What shopping tips to do you have for the home chef?
KL: Shop at local farmers markets! Don’t buy the same ingredients week after week. Be it at the market or the store, be adventurous, ask questions, try new things so that eating and cooking remain exciting. If you are shopping at the store, avoid the middle of the store. Shop on the outer edges and you will find that you are much happier…
Organic Authority would like to thank Kevin London and Kimberly Feeney and all of the sustainable, organic farmers and chefs whose work is providing healthy food for us all to eat. We honor you as being conscious stewards of our planet. And, we are thrilled to have you participating in our Earth Day event!