As the guy who runs the show, nothing is more gratifying than when your people embody the mission and goals of the business. It can be as simple as the server who rides his bike to work because he believes in your sustainability message or as grand as your executive chef becoming a farmer and epitomizing your mantra, Building Good Food.
Earlier this year, Marc Bernard and his partner, Luis, bought a 5 acre farm in Elburn, about 30 miles west of Chicago. Neither of them had ever run a farm, which also had never been tilled. They both dove in head first, gathering as much knowledge as possible and reaching out to friends and business partners like Bron Weaver at Heritage Prairie Farm, our first farm-to-table partner.
Four months after they planted seed, hundreds of pounds of produce have started arriving at our Chicago locations from their Rustic Road Farm. Marc’s also shared potatoes, onions and beets with other Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, including L. Woods and Food Life.
The dozens of chickens are starting to lay eggs, which will start showing up in Big Bowl specials. I’m told that there will be a farm dinner in the fall featuring the pigs they’re raising. Some lucky people will have a chance to grace their thanksgiving table with one of their turkeys. Did I mention the goats or the berry bushes or apple trees?
Keep in mind Marc is still working his 50 to 60 hour work week as a chef, then goes home at the end of the day, swapping his whites for farmer gear and works another 20 to 30 hours a week at the farm. Luis spends 12-15 hours a day working the farm as well. That’s commitment!
In three years, we at Big Bowl went from working with local farmers, then leasing a few acres for our own crops to finally having our own farm. All made possible by my partner/our executive chef’s commitment to Building Good Food.
Talk about passion!