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More Chefs Growing Own Produce Makes Us Happy

By Jacy Wojcik in Food on Jul 9, 2008 9:14PM

There are a thousand reasons why summer dining in Chicago is so fantastic. One of the best being fresh, locally grown ingredients and it doesn't get any fresher than when chefs grow their own ingredients in restaurant or home gardens. An increasing number of chefs are doing so including some of our faves: Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill, Paul Kahan of Blackbird, George Djurovic of August Grocery, (just to name a few.)

For many chefs, having their own garden sanctuary gives them a stronger connection to the food they're serving, offers them a bit of relaxation, takes them back to their childhood where tending to gardens was a favorite activity and offers them a chance to experiment with produce that isn't usually found at local markets or, uh, off a Sysco truck. Adam Seger of Nacional 27 grows Stevia for mojitos; Kahan grows Lovage for a braised lamb dish; Djurovic grows an array of fresh herbs for sale in his boutique grocery store.

Though it sometimes comes at a cost. Chefs face garden thieves, random city chemicals (like stuff used to remove graffiti from walls), or having to climb through shady stairwells to get to rooftops. Often, growing their own isn't very economical. But do the costs outweigh the benefits? Bruce Sherman of North Pond restaurant says no. "It's a money loser at this point, I suppose. But that's not what it's about. It's the right thing to do to get closer to the land, to have a better product."

We couldn't agree more. Keep growing chefs! Until it gets cold and we long for the days of fresh basil in our caprese salad...