Indigenous Foods: The Pinnacle of Locavore
Using Ingredients Native to your Region to Market your Restaurant
By Larry Mogelonsky President & Founder, LMA Communications | August 23, 2015
A decade ago, the locavore movement was still an emerging trend, saved mostly for niche artisanal shoppes and ultra-posh restaurants with four-digit price tags. Heck, even the portmanteau 'locavore' was seldom understood or recognized by readers. Now, though, if your restaurant isn't sourcing locally (at least in some capacity), you might as well lump yourself into the fast casual dining category. The times, they are a-changin'…and they're a-changin' fast!
Furthermore, now that it's 2015, local ingredient sourcing is no longer perceived as a value-add; it's become an expectation for guests of all ages and dispositions. And we've done this to ourselves, after all. With restaurants the world over using some iteration of 'Locally Sourced' as part of their marketing efforts to usurp the competition, consumers have become numb to the terminology. In other words, basic locavore tactics by themselves no longer impress guests enough to generate that vital word of mouth nor are they a clear point of differentiation.
Before you misinterpret, know that I'm not advocating you to abandon the practice of local sourcing. It's a noble pursuit and one that all restaurants should aspire to have in place. Rather, it's time we beef up your locavore crusade so that you can continue to wow guests and give them an exceptional dining experience that they will remember long after the meal is complete. With this as a goal, let's discuss implementing an 'indigenous' F&B program.
Defining Indigenous Foods
If you want to take your locavore efforts to the next level, consider infusing the menu with flora and fauna that are indigenous to the area – that is, foods that have been naturally thriving in the local ecosystem before the artificial interloping of humankind. Also called 'Forest to Table' as a comparative term to 'Farm to Table', I prefer the label 'indigenous' because many of us don't live in or near woodland regions. I suppose if you ran a seafood joint, the term 'Ocean to Table' would be an easy substitute, and along those lines 'Field to Table' and 'Sand to Table' might also apply. As delivering an 'authentic local guest experience' is all the rage these days, what is more authentically local than the species that have dwelled and evolved in the region for eons?
To successfully craft cuisine that fits this profile, a serious upgrade to your food knowledge is essential as you have five millennia of agricultural terraforming to contend with. Take tomatoes for instance. A staple to the culinary traditions of numerous Old World cultures, lest you forget that they didn't exist outside of Mesoamerica prior to the arrival of Hernán Cortes and the start of the Columbian Exchange. In fact, the Italian for tomato – pomodoro – translates back to English as 'golden apple', alluding to the marketing verbiage that Renaissance merchants used to sell these erstwhile exotic, little red, and often yellow, fruits.