Want to support local food and farming and sample appetizers from chefs like Joel Harrington? Buy your tickets today to the Eco App-Off, a truly unique celebration of sustainable agriculture.
The Eco App-Off at The Ecology Center on June 24th is a friendly culinary competition between trailblazing Southern California chefs.
In anticipation of this unique celebration of local food and farming, we’re excited to share the stories of a few of the chefs whose innovative farm-to-table appetizers will be featured at our gathering. Here we talk to Chef Joel Harrington of Lido Bottle Works, a Newport Beach eatery that dishes out locally sourced meals inspired by the California coast.
Why is sustainability important to you as a chef?
I’ve been involved with the local food movement since I started cooking twenty years ago. Growing up in Vermont, we fished for own fish, hunted for our own food, and grew our own garden. Supporting local food and farming really has been instilled in me from the beginning. And as a chef, it’s my responsibility to put quality, healthy food on the plate.
Where will you be sourcing your ingredients FROM for the Eco App-Off?
I’m working with the folks at the Dory Fish Market to source ingredients for the foundation of the dish so the dish will depend on what they are catching! I live on the peninsula so I stop by often to get fish. [Lido Bottle Works partner] Eric Paine and I have also planted produce at his Mom’s house in Costa Mesa for our restaurant so we’re going to have stuff on the plate that we grew ourselves. We’ll use a few vegetables from Weiser Family Farm to finish the dish as well. I’m calling the dish the Dory Catch and it will likely be a ceviche with root vegetables from Weiser as the base so I don’t have to put the crudo on plate.
How do you develop relationships with local farmers?
I’ve worked all over the country. One of the very first things I do when I move to a place is go to the farmers’ market. My menu is based on what’s available in farmers’ markets. I always live near my restaurant to get the local flavor. When I go to the farmers’ markets, I tell the farmer I’m meeting with what my idea is and build relationships from there. That’s a real passion for me.
What are some of the most special relationships that you’ve developed?
When I moved to Arizona I saw this great produce at the local farmers’ market and learned that it was grown by a farmer named Richard Starkey. Richard worked on the railroad for forty years and had a beautiful farm in the mountains. [We connected] and together planned out my menu for the entire growing season based on the farm. I would go on my days off and work on the farm and he would deliver produce once a week. Eventually, I was featured in a book, Notes From a Kitchen, and my whole section was on the farmer/chef relationship. One of my closest friends, Tom Spicer, was a farmer in Dallas who really taught me a lot about gardening and growing. I also loved working on the farm last summer with Tim Kirkman of Sun e Farms.
What’s one thing THAT a home cook can do in their own kitchen to support an ecological food future?
You can preserve veggies. Have a garden outside of your home kitchen and take items that are in season and preserve them through pickling and fermentation.