The Sustainable Restaurant Association on using locally source produce with Enda McEvoy, Head Chef, Loam

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th June 2017

The Sustainable Restaurant Association speak to Enda McEvoy, head chef at Loam which retained its star in the Michelin Guide UK 2017, about the importance of using locally sourced produce.

If a new supplier turned up on your doorstep, offering cheaper, tastier produce with a minuscule environmental footprint and offered to hook you up with some other equally great producers, you might just show them the door thinking it was too good to be true.

Enda McEvoy, Loam
Enda McEvoy, Loam

Hold on a moment! This is exactly what thousands of producers across the UK are offering restaurants right across the UK. Incredibly though, given the temperate climate and rich agricultural heritage we seem to have fallen out of love with the fabulous larder on our doorstep and are now more reliant on food imports than at time since the mid-70s – more than half of our food comes from overseas.

Our own research tells us that half of diners want restaurants to focus on locally produced food. If you need more evidence not only of the public’s appetite for local produce, but also a desire for access to it, check out the 2015 Defra report which shows that a massive 80% of consumers think buying local food is important but only 30% actually do it – more often than not because it’s not available. Has there ever been a better reason for shouting from the rooftops about the gorgeous produce you’re serving and the fantastic businesses producing it?

With huge uncertainty around the impact of Brexit on food prices and availability, there’s never been a better time to source and serve food produced within 50 miles – that’s our definition of local, unless you’re in London when we stretch the boundary out to 100 miles.

>>> Read more about how Brexit has affected the industry here

And this is exactly why we are excited to devote this month to celebrate local produce. Throughout June we’ll be turning the spotlight on the benefits of supporting local producers and urging chefs to give those people who work tirelessly to grow, rear and create your raw materials, their moment in the sun.

Loam Restaurant by Julia Dunin Photography

Mackerel, onion and pine

by Julia Dunin Photography 

Over on the west coast of Ireland, chef Enda McEvoy has built a substantial reputation for doing just that, because he knows their true value to him and the success of his restaurant, Loam. Enda adds: “I regard all my suppliers as being as fundamental to my business as anything else – as much as bricks in the restaurant walls. Local sourcing is absolutely fundamental to our whole business. We’re here to showcase what these amazing farmers, fishermen and growers do.”

Enda and his team at the Michelin-starred Galway restaurant view each month as a menu creator and generator of fresh tastes and flavours rather than some kind of seasonal straight-jacket.

“Some chefs might say that using only local produce limits what they can do. Personally, I need to limit the number of ingredients available to me or I get confused.

“I’ve set these parameters myself. If I can’t find the ingredient locally to suit my standards then it’s up to me to come up with alternatives. It means that our menu is really fluid and we have to be creative and think long term, particularly in the winter months. I’m passionate about preserving things. That way we can continue to use locally grown things all year round."

A longstanding and deep-rooted passion for provenance got a whole lot deeper for Enda thanks to a major intervention by Mother Nature seven years ago.

“When that volcano in Iceland erupted in 2010 and we were cut off for two weeks wondering what they hell we were going to do with no imported veg from Europe. That just made me re-evaluate and look even closer to home.

Pea, horseradish and mackerel, Enda McEvoy, Loam
Pea, horseradish and mackerel

“I started thinking even more about what people are growing, how and why they grow it. Sometimes they’ll change what they grow to try and match what they think their customers want – and that’s when they need a commitment from people like me. That kind of agreement between farmer and buyer is essential so if they agree to grow something you agree to take all of it. It’s a different kind of a mind-set but it makes so much more sense that ordering something from someone you’ve never met.”

Eighty per cent of the vegetables at Loam comes from a local grower called Leaf and Roots, and Enda and the owner Fergal speak every week and meet up regularly to talk about what Fergal’s going to plant, what’ll work and what won’t.

Enda believes in this way of working so intensely and passing it on to the next generation of chefs is something of a mission for him.

“Every summer we take on two stagieres. As part of their experience, we arrange for them to spend time out on the farm taking part in the harvest and going to market. It’s part of the reason why people come to work here.

“We can’t build a community but we can support it. We wouldn’t be here without them. They want to make the best possible product and it’s up to us to showcase that as best we can. For me, it is so much more than an exchange of money. I get a better product and a better community to live in.”

Seize the midsummer days of abundance and join hundreds of restaurants showcasing their producers at Food Made Good. This month, we are asking you to celebrate yours by making a special dish, highlighting it on the menu, posting photos to us on social media and generally giving these real food heroes the credit they deserve. As Enda says, they are as important to him as the bricks in his restaurant’s walls.

Go to www.foodmadegood.org/local to support the campaign, be inspired by some of the real local champions and join the conversation @FoodMadeGood #WeServeLocal

The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit membership org that helps foodservice make smart, sustainable decisions through the Food Made Good campaign.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th June 2017

The Sustainable Restaurant Association on using locally source produce with Enda McEvoy, Head Chef, Loam