In every bite of a dish from Salt, one can taste a medley of flavors that impart more than just the delight of a quality, flavorful meal, but also a dedication to sustaining the ecology and businesses of Boulder.
Salt is one of the few restaurants in America that has fully immersed itself in the culture of farm-to-table dining, a culinary approach in which restaurants (and family kitchens) get their products from nearby farms, ranches and vendors, instead of ordering them from a corporate third party.
“The term farm-to-table is the shortest distance, the fewest hands, that it takes to get a vegetable from the ground to the table,” said Kevin Kidd, the executive chef at Salt. “It’s the farmer selling it and it going directly to the chef.”
Kidd said the benefits of farm-to-table dining go beyond a kitchen filled with fresh food, but also contribute to a sustainable environment and localized economy.
Buying food locally ensures that the food travels the shortest possible distance and does not pollute the environment from its journey. Local sourcing also creates economic sustainability by keeping the wealth in the community.
He said a valuable part of working in a restaurant dedicated to farm-to-table dining is that the money stays in the community to help local growers.
“So, by cutting out the middle-men we save money and they make money, and we’re helping our neighbors out as well, which is very important in a community like Boulder,” Kidd said.
Salt’s farm-to-table business model supports include Oxford Gardens, Cure Organic Farms and Lasater Grassfed Beef.
Mignon Macias runs the marketing and sales for Lasater Grassfed Beef, a ranch that sells its premium cuts to a select few restaurants.
“I really sought out restaurants that have the philosophy that Salt does have,” Macias said. “They are really making a concerted effort to support local growers and ranchers, and I sought them out because of that.”
The working relationship between grower and chef in farm-to-table dining is one that ensures quality and accountability from both restaurant and the fields.
Peter Volz is the owner and main grower of Oxford Gardens in Boulder and has worked with Kidd for a number of years.
Kidd said local sourcing offers the additional benefit of ingredients in proximity, and Volz said he values Salt’s practicality, allowing availability to dictate the menu.
“They know I do my best, they trust that I do my best, and conversely, I take care of them,” Volz said. “If they need something and it’s an off-day and I’m exhausted, I’ll get them what they need. Even if it’s not part of the program, I’ll make it happen. I make sure the quality is always right.”
Full-flavored produce and sustainability are key benefits to buying locally grown food, but for many individuals buying organically at a market is expensive.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons why people buy from different places,” Volz said. “And I think that there are people who simply cannot afford it. Food at the Boulder Farmers Market is expensive.”
For individuals looking to adopt a farm-to-table lifestyle for their kitchens without breaking their bank, community-supported agriculture and community gardens are affordable options.
Ramona Clark is the executive director of Growing Gardens, a community garden in Boulder that allows individuals to purchase plots of land to grow their own produce.
“It’s very affordable to grow your own vegetables, the only cost is your time,” Clark said.
Plots range from $30 to $100 for the entire season at Growing Gardens, and garden leaders are present to offer advice to new growers.
She said community gardens can produce up to thousands of dollars worth of groceries a season, and are the most financially and environmentally sustainable option for family kitchens.
“As a community gardener, not only do you grow local food and create a system that can sustain local food, but you’re also creating an educated citizen that understands that local food creates a healthy lifestyle,” Clark said.
Farm-to-table dining is something that European markets have been doing for a long time, but is something that is only recently becoming common again in American cuisine.
Kidd said Boulder is one of the few cities outside of California that is leading middle America to adopt farm-to-table dining habits.
Volz, who began his career as a gardener at Growing Gardens, said he sees farm-to-table dining as something fundamental, rather than a new-age trend.
“Well, you know, we think it’s something kind of modern and hip and ‘with it’ right now, but the ironic thing is that it’s extremely old-fashioned, it’s hundreds of years old,” Volz said.
Now there is a lot of effort that goes into running a restaurant that uses farm-to-table methods.
“I could call a company like Sysco and I could run down a list of everything I need and it could take me five minutes and I’d be done with it,” Kidd said. “Whereas, when I source locally I’m on the phone talking to people.”
A labor-intensive afternoon could be consumed with phone calls to between 15 and 20 vendors as he looks to develop Salt’s menu, but Kidd said that he has an obligation to feed his customers products that are of the highest quality.
“I don’t want to put things in people’s bodies that’s going to shorten their lifespan,” he said. “I want to give people offerings that are healthy for them…. If people are going to come in and eat my food, I want to give them something that’s going to do them better.”
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Sara Kassabian at Sara.firstname.lastname@example.org.