Truly eating local is difficult. And people don’t like things that are difficult so they like restaurants that do the local sourcing for them. Unfortunately, it looks like some of those restaurants decided sourcing was too hard and just straight-up lied about where the food was coming from. A recent expose of Tampa restaurants found multiple instances of ‘Eat Local’ restaurants serving food that was anything but.
Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reilly found house-made cheese curds that came in a box, Alaskan Haddock that arrives “fresh” full of preservatives from China, and shrimp that managed to be “from Florida’s Gulf Coast” despite being raised in India.
“My conclusion? Just about everyone tells tales. Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or ‘greenwashing.'”
Reilly admits that some of the discrepancies are matters of infrastructure.
“Most restaurants do not have the time or wherewithal to deal directly with farmers and producers; most farmers and producers don’t have the infrastructure to do their own sales, marketing and delivery,” she wrote. “So the storytelling begins.”
And, of course, we can’t neglect our own part in this. No customer likes to be told that a restaurant is simply out of something (and given the nature of self-styled food critics on review sites, doing so could lead to actual harm for the business), so they lie about some of their food in the name of having a more consistent and reliable supply chain.
However, the problem is bigger than just a few fibs on a menu board. Actual farmers are miffed that restaurants are gaining prestige off of their names without actually buying their product. One such farmer was interviewed by Reilly:
“Jim Wood pasture-raises Hereford pigs at his Palmetto Creek Farms in Avon Park. He’s so frustrated with restaurants lying about using his pork that his invoices now say, ‘You cannot use my name unless you reference the line item sold.’ That includes chalkboards…’Chefs make a lot more money by using my name and selling someone else’s product.'”
Makes you wonder where that water is coming from.
The entire thing is definitely worth a read. Check it out over at the Tampa Bay Times.