For chefs, the notion of shopping locally is a romantic one: Glorious, sun-filled mornings, strolling through the farmers’ market with a warm latte and freshly fried apple cider doughnut in hand. Stopping for a quick chat with your favorite farmers. Carrying the day’s bounty back to your restaurant in a little red wagon. This is every chef’s dream morning, but that’s not how it really goes down.
Seasonal and local sourcing is not for control freaks; it’s for those who know the only thing you can rely on is change. That leisurely morning at the market? This experience rarely goes off without a hitch. Odds are, the beautiful, handpicked mâche you were dreaming of might not even make it to the market. If you leave with 100% of the produce you expected to source, it’s like winning the lottery. But that’s when your skills as a chef truly come into play, because when you have a menu devoted to seasonal and local produce, you actively plan for improvisation. If snap peas lack their snap, you can substitute long beans. If the peaches are overripe, you substitute plums for your tart—or buy the peaches on the cheap and make sorbet.
Read on to learn how smart chefs reinvent their menus with the seasons.