How NYC’s Chefs Shop For Produce

With the ongoing vegetable craze and emphasis on local, organic produce, chefs have to get smart about their shopping methods. Dan Barber, the chef probably most associated with the emphasis of seasonal produce on menus, recalls his experience at the Greenmarket a decade ago compared to now, “Ten years ago, when we opened Blue Hill in New York City, if I wasn’t there till 10 a.m., it was no problem, now, when we go at 7 a.m., we’re in a panic to get what we need.”

Due to the vegetable-centric menu craze still going strong, chefs are challenged to get the produce they have their minds set on, and are finding ways to get an advantage over others to obtain it. Barber’s secret is to contact the growers during seed-buying time early on in the year: “You have them in for dinner in the cold of winter, with the seed catalogue, then you can get into their minds — hell, I’ll even buy them the seed.”

Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of what will soon be the new ‘veggie’ Dirt Candy, explains that kindness is key in getting your produce at the market, “You have to be really nice to make sure your produce is set aside; asking about their family, inviting them in for dinner — some chefs push to the front, like, ‘Hey do you have my order?’ That doesn’t work.” Chef José Ramírez-Ruiz, chef at the vegetable centric restaurant Semilla, has his own trick: he pays his growers as soon as possible to spare them the fuss with invoicing. “Cash is king. I don’t pay 15 days from now. I buy a product and I pay for it in that moment.”

To read about other chef’s methods of obtaining the exact produce they want and need, click here

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