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Listing the Producer on the Menu


blakegwinn
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I have to admit I am getting a little weary of the obsessive naming of where things came from. If you have a tremendous piece of sea bass or a beautiful tomato, by all means ask the chef where it came from. But do we have to list the origins of every freaking ingredient? I understand some titles make a big difference in some products, heirloom tomato, heritage turkey, berkshire, neiman etc. but is it necessary that I know a carrot came from Joe Farmer's Produce, 3rd row of the carrot patch (much stronger terroir than the ones in the 4th row!) in Sudden Valley PA?

I read a few of the recent articles on this trend and I agree that it is a bit tiresome.

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I have to admit I am getting a little weary of the obsessive naming of where things came from. If you have a tremendous piece of sea bass or a beautiful tomato, by all means ask the chef where it came from. But do we have to list the origins of every freaking ingredient? I understand some titles make a big difference in some products, heirloom tomato, heritage turkey, berkshire, neiman etc. but is it necessary that I know a carrot came from Joe Farmer's Produce, 3rd row of the carrot patch (much stronger terroir than the ones in the 4th row!) in Sudden Valley PA?

I read a few of the recent articles on this trend and I agree that it is a bit tiresome.

I disagree, although it would be a pretty wordy menu if every item was identified. The naming of small local farms provides some exposure to folks that may not (and probably not) know that they exist. As we all know many of these are small outfits that have a tough time competing so the extra exposure might get them some business or more visitors at the farmer's market.

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I disagree, although it would be a pretty wordy menu if every item was identified. The naming of small local farms provides some exposure to folks that may not (and probably not) know that they exist. As we all know many of these are small outfits that have a tough time competing so the extra exposure might get them some business or more visitors at the farmer's market.
I agree with you, but I do think it is important to strike the right balance and that may vary greatly from customer to customer, even at the same table. For example, I am very interested in hearing ALL the details about what I'm eating at somewhere like Restaurant Eve's Tasting Room - it means something to me. However, when we took my +1's mother there several months back, she found all the description preceding each course to be too much. This is understandable, because, being a visitor from far away, it doesn't mean anything to her to know which MD/VA/PA farmer grew/raised the components of her meal.
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I'm on the anti-wordy stuff. I don't care. I've never once ordered a dish based on where the lettuce was grown, and I'm at the age where I don't read fine print so good by candelight while drinking. "Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Rasberry Vinaigrette" in 24-point type will do nicely.

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I agree with you, but I do think it is important to strike the right balance and that may vary greatly from customer to customer, even at the same table. For example, I am very interested in hearing ALL the details about what I'm eating at somewhere like Restaurant Eve's Tasting Room - it means something to me. However, when we took my +1's mother there several months back, she found all the description preceding each course to be too much. This is understandable, because, being a visitor from far away, it doesn't mean anything to her to know which MD/VA/PA farmer grew/raised the components of her meal.
But for the small minority who do care (if it is a split decision on this board you KNOW it is a small percentage of the dining public as a whole) just ask your server. They should be versed on that if they are a decent server and when I was a waiter if there was ever something I didn't know I had no problem <making it up AHEM> excuse me, I meant asking the chef.

Plus does naming the farm where it is produced mean anything? Its like when pilots tell you their names. Who is like, "OH James. I like his work. He is a GREAT lander!" Ican't tell one farm from another and wouldn't remember the name for more than a minute anyway. And as far as exposure for smaller farms, for all I know they could be traded on the NYSE, supply produce for the entire Giant chain and using strichnine for fertilizer. The exceptions (other than the obvious I already stated) I think the country of origin is often relevant, geographical history on seafood as well as descriptors about its harvest/storage methods (dayboat, wild caught, farm raised, Chesapeake, etc.) I guess my point is that I like the ones that an average person could pick out if they tasted it again but when servers start rattling off the farm names it seems like douchebaggery in the second degree.

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Plus does naming the farm where it is produced mean anything?
Actually it does, though granted probably for only a very small number of diners. But some of us here have been (multiple times) to Davoncrest Farm, so it's nice to know when you're eating David and Sharon's radishes or microbasil or carrots, etc. etc. Just as Polyface Farms chicken or beef is a special treat. This is the case for several local producers. I also mentioned over in the travel thread how I enjoyed during my visit to San Francisco seeing on a menu the names of farmers whose produce I had seen that morning at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. That's just me and I completely understand those who don't care/aren't interested. I am happy to see the names on the menu and don't need them recited as the dish is presented (but I don't mind that either). I suppose servers could ask if you want the 'reader's digest' description or the unabridged version :(
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But for the small minority who do care (if it is a split decision on this board you KNOW it is a small percentage of the dining public as a whole) just ask your server. They should be versed on that if they are a decent server and when I was a waiter if there was ever something I didn't know I had no problem <making it up AHEM> excuse me, I meant asking the chef.

Plus does naming the farm where it is produced mean anything? Its like when pilots tell you their names. Who is like, "OH James. I like his work. He is a GREAT lander!" Ican't tell one farm from another and wouldn't remember the name for more than a minute anyway. And as far as exposure for smaller farms, for all I know they could be traded on the NYSE, supply produce for the entire Giant chain and using strichnine for fertilizer. The exceptions (other than the obvious I already stated) I think the country of origin is often relevant, geographical history on seafood as well as descriptors about its harvest/storage methods (dayboat, wild caught, farm raised, Chesapeake, etc.) I guess my point is that I like the ones that an average person could pick out if they tasted it again but when servers start rattling off the farm names it seems like douchebaggery in the second degree.

/stepping on soapbox/

People with your frame of mind are exactly why local producers should be named on menus. Maybe not in every dish, but they deserve the recognition. I'll change your analogy from pilot to film director, musician, or artist. Farmers don't just grow the food, as you claim they do when you compare them to a pilot who lands his plane. They do work that most of us wouldn't dream of spending our day doing, usually for a lot less than they deserve, and with as much care as any director whose movie you go pay $12 to see or any musician you go see play live. The farmers who grew your food are as important as everyone in the kitchen who prepared it.

Have you ever had a meal in a restaurant where you knew that the day before someone who you cared about had delivered the wood (which she had chopped) that warmed the oven and grew the vegetables you were enjoying? Have you ever listened to a farmer talk a contentious chef about the dishes her vegetables would become in a few hours? It changes your experience while dining, for the better.

As for waiters who fake their knowledge, I would be careful. If your chef really gives a damn about the food they serve (and no offense but frankly from my experiences dining there, Cafe Delux does not fall into this category), they are going to be really pissed when you fake it. Chefs who do give a damn take pride that they are supporting local producers, or non local producers who specialize in an area, are the people who don't deserve to be on the trite list.

/stepping off soapbox/

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Have you ever had a meal in a restaurant where you knew that the day before someone who you cared about had delivered the wood (which she had chopped) that warmed the oven and grew the vegetables you were enjoying? Have you ever listened to a farmer talk a contentious chef about the dishes her vegetables would become in a few hours? It changes your experience while dining, for the better.

As for waiters who fake their knowledge, I would be careful. If your chef really gives a damn about the food they serve (and no offense but frankly from my experiences dining there, Cafe Delux does not fall into this category), they are going to be really pissed when you fake it. Chefs who do give a damn take pride that they are supporting local producers, or non local producers who specialize in an area, are the people who don't deserve to be on the trite list.

/stepping off soapbox/

Look I never faked it, never had to. For many years I was at Deluxe and you are right, it wasn't that important, even though I could tell you where we got just about everything. I have also worked at places that had 30 minute shift meetings because we had to memorize producers and daily suppliers. I was what I callled a good server, I knew my shit. But if you fired every server who at some point bs-ed something like that you would probably have 50 servers left in DC. I am sure some chefs would be angry but I am sure there are just as many chefs who would yell some naughty language at you if you started playing twenty questions about farms during the dinner rush on Saturday night.

My whole point is if I can't taste a significant difference why does it matter? The reason I said airline pilot is because the work of one is probably indistinguishable from another. If I see an Oliver Stone movie I can pick it out instantly from a Tarantino. I think the examples you mentioned make more sense for chefs. You could probably tell the difference between a Cathal dish and a Richard dish almost immediately. I think farmers are more like the grips. Just like I don't stay around to see who the "best boy grip" was in a movie I don't really care which farm produced something. If I had a personal relationship with a farmer, sure. But then they would probably tell me who they sourced and you wouldn't have to hear it from a waiter. The whole thing just strikes me as marketing. We had a small apple orchard outside Kansas City when I was growing up ran by my grandpa and we supplied to several local restaurants during the fall and I could care less if we got any credit. Maybe I am going to lose my foodie card over this....

The funny thing is it doesn't really bother me at all, I just kind of snicker to myself when I am reading over a menu like that. I just thought it kind of fit on the trite list because everyone is doing it and in most cases I find it silly.

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I don't take it into consideration on a menu, and certainly don't want a recitation at the table. It gives me a chuckle to see Mark Toigo pimped all over town but that's only because I know him.
When I started at this restaurant up here in NJ we had what usually was in the range of 2-4 minutes of menu recitations at each table (that doesn't sound like much but have someone talk to you straight for 3 minutes!!) I felt so ridiculous doing it, especially when most people were obviously tuned out after the first 30 seconds, but if I didn't the owner/manager would have fired me on the spot (or so my trainer told me). Telling people that the chicken in the chicken parm was free-range organic yada yada, fine. But when I had to recite the names of the farms where we got the tomato and basil in the sauce? Borderline. A legit question from one of the service staff quizzes, name the farm where we get the mint for our mojitos. The funny thing is I didn't care for the atmosphere and went to work at another restaurant shortly after and they sourced everything from the same people for the most part they just didn't feel the need to tell everyone about it. I did eventually find out that the owners/managers of the first restaurant were well known around town as legendary blowhards.
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The whole thing just strikes me as marketing. We had a small apple orchard outside Kansas City when I was growing up ran by my grandpa and we supplied to several local restaurants during the fall and I could care less if we got any credit.
I bet your grandfather cared. It's not all about marketing. To me, it's an indication of chefs who care about the quality of the ingredients they use and the people who provide those ingredients. As a consumer of those products, I kinda like to know their source. Good servers should like the opportunity to provide that information to their customers.

Just my opinion.

-Camille

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I bet your grandfather cared. It's not all about marketing. To me, it's an indication of chefs who care about the quality of the ingredients they use and the people who provide those ingredients. As a consumer of those products, I kinda like to know their source. Good servers should like the opportunity to provide that information to their customers.

Just my opinion.

-Camille

I agree with Camille. I think it goes beyond bragging and marketing-at least I believe that chefs who do list their sources do so because they really care about the farmers and of course the quality of the ingredients they use. It appeals to me because I also like to buy from local farmers when I can. It also reflects seasonal cooking and that appeals to me in menu choices as well. It shows a great deal of caring about the food that goes on the table (not to get all preachy here).

I remember a while ago, when people like Camille were giving so generously of themselves in helping Davon Crest Farm survive, I too had given to PayPal to help pay for day labor (which really pales in comparison with the efforts of those who toiled physically and endlessly). Well, one day while having a drink at Eve's bar, I ordered a Lemon Laurel (Laurel Lemon???) and realized that the laurel came from Davon Crest. I smiled to myself thinking I was in a small way, part of this whole "caring about where things come from" thing.

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(or maybe after all)

What's so great about the producer names on the menu when it's the same places we shop? I mean, I was eating dinner at CityZen on my wife's birthday and I said: "look at the menu, it's exactly like eating dinner at our house (excepte Ziebold knows what a "shoat" is). I mean, I want more from the kitchen gods than I can find on a Sunday morning at Dupont, assuming I'm not sleeping until noon because I close down Timberlakes. If I'm eating Toigo apples, I want Eve to make their dessert with hand-massaged pommes d'or fresh Normandy, fruit that has been watered with Calvados and virgins' tears. If I'm buying pork from Polyface (his name was Wilbur, by the way. I didn't tell my daughter) I want CityZen to buy pork from a mysterious, wizened African-American gentleman who drives a battered panel truck with Tennessee plates up to the back door of the kitchen, speaks in epigrams and sells chops by the ounce. And if I'm having my shellfish flown in from Gloucester (or bought from Buster's) I Komi's to be flown in Saipan. I don't think that's too much to ask. :mellow:

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I don't mind when a waiter or waitress recites the source of various ingredients to me, but I would also like to know the name of the animal that I am about to consume. Why don't they ever know that when I ask?

The easiest solution would be to raise the animals yourself. A friend of mine once named their newly-acquired Toggenburg goat "Toggen-burger". Makes a delicious chili, don't you know.

In the future, of course, at better restaurants we'll just meet the meat.

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What's so great about the producer names on the menu when it's the same places we shop?
Aw, we know you're doing the right thing, Mr. farm market shoppin' foodie guy. :mellow: I made a rather glib reply upthread, but perhaps the people who don't usually shop at the market, but read "Toigo Farms apples" on a menu might get inspired to seek them out, maybe ask the chef where he can get those delicious apples, or the excellent pork chops. They get a little gentle education, and you get congratulate yourself on your excellent sourcing abilities. There's no loser there.

Now excuse me, I need to get to work on my dinner - Eco-Friendly pork belly with Rancho Gordo pinto beans and Gardener's Gourmet broccoli. :)

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I think Polyface assigns numbers to their animals, would that suffice? :mellow:

You mean the boutique meat producers don't name their livestock? I guess that I can see why a restaurant wouldn't publicize the fact that it is serving meat from animals that the producers treated like inventory. Tell me again how this stuff is different than what you get from Tyson or Smithfield?

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You mean the boutique meat producers don't name their livestock? I guess that I can see why a restaurant wouldn't publicize the fact that it is serving meat from animals that the producers treated like inventory. Tell me again how this stuff is different than what you get from Tyson or Smithfield?
Did you watch that video posted in the other thread?

It doesn't have to say "Bossy" on the label to assure the buyer that the animals were humanely raised and fed appropriately. That's the point of revealing the sources of menu items.

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You mean the boutique meat producers don't name their livestock? I guess that I can see why a restaurant wouldn't publicize the fact that it is serving meat from animals that the producers treated like inventory. Tell me again how this stuff is different than what you get from Tyson or Smithfield?

You can talk to the farmers who raise the animals themselves at our local farmers markets. Talk to anyone at Eco Friendly (especially Bev) or Cibola, for example.

Babes in the Wood was recently featured at a fork to farm dinner at Rustico. Babes in the Wood is also selling at the Old Town Alexandria Market on Sat. mornings (year round)- that market is seemingly starting to get quite good. Less arts and crafts and more seriously good vendors.

Read Babes' statement about their pork here.

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It doesn't have to say "Bossy" on the label to assure the buyer that the animals were humanely raised and fed appropriately. That's the point of revealing the sources of menu items.

All kidding aside (and yes, I was kidding), the point is that listing producers does absolutely nothing to ensure that animals were treated humanely or raised a certain way. You may have personal knowledge of a few producers, but for every farm that you know of, I'd bet that there are 10 that you do not (or at least that is probably true of most people). You just assume that the product is superior when you see the name of the producer on the menu, just like we all assumed that the "Corinthian" leather in our K car was special.

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You mean the boutique meat producers don't name their livestock? I guess that I can see why a restaurant wouldn't publicize the fact that it is serving meat from animals that the producers treated like inventory. Tell me again how this stuff is different than what you get from Tyson or Smithfield?

Uhhh, maybe its raised in ways that don't pollute the environment or exploit the farmworker in the same way that these industrial plants do. Many of today's superbugs have started on farms. Industrial farms where animals live in their own piles of shit. E-Coli 057 is one of the fastest growing, albeit still small, public health risks today. Brought to you by industrial farming.

Plus it tastes better too!

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All kidding aside (and yes, I was kidding), the point is that listing producers does absolutely nothing to ensure that animals were treated humanely or raised a certain way. You may have personal knowledge of a few producers, but ... You just assume that the product is superior when you see the name of the producer on the menu...

Well, while I would agree that restaurants generally would benefit from the salutatory effect you describe, and that sometimes it seems like that's the only thing the menu's author cared about, the fact is that naming your supplier also invites further scrutiny of that supplier. So while it's no a priori guarantee of quality, there's still a big difference if supplier A turns out to be open and communicative about their operation and methods, and supplier B turns out to be Hallmark/Westland, or a PR front for Bob's Hydraulic Carcass Blasting Enterprises. You don't see Sysco mentioned on a lot of menus, do you?

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Uhhh, maybe its raised in ways that don't pollute the environment or exploit the farmworker in the same way that these industrial plants do.

Having your menu or waitstaff tell me that my pork chop hails from Manor Farm does not let me know that it was "raised in ways that don't pollute the environment or exploit the farmworker." If you want me to know that, you should tell me that, and also tell me how it is that you know, so that I can gauge for myself the quality of the information. And, whatever you do, please don't use words like "humane," "organic," or (worst of all) "natural," because we all know that those words are meaningless.

Don't get me wrong; I care that you care about these issues. But including the name of a producer in a menu description only tells me that you want me to think that you care about these issues. You have to do more, because soon the Tysons and Smithfields of the world will start their own "boutique" brands (if they haven't already) and most restaurant customers won't know the difference.

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Take a look at our website. We do tell you that we are offering sustainable products. Our menu does too. We don't serve skate, monkfish, grouper or bluefin tuna because of the endagered condition of the fisheries. I pay more per pound for my meat than many a steakhouse serving dry aged prime beef.

We are not necessrily locavores because local doesn't guarantee sustainability or low energy usage or efficient use of resources. Having said that, in season, almost all my produce dollars go to Tuscarora. But my meats do mostly come from small family owned farms following humane farming practices.

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Take a look at our website.

I have no doubt that you employ the highest ethics in running your business, and don't need to look at your website to confirm that. The partcipation of you and other restauranteurs in this forum clearly demostrates that you care about what goes on beyond the doors of your establishments. So please accept my apologies if my last post seemed to indicate otherwise. When I noted that "you" need to do a better job in letting customers know what they are eating, I meant it as the collective you, or restauranteurs generally.

Anyway, I suspect that many of your competitors list producer information, not because they care about any of the issues discussed in this thread, but because it makes it significantly easier to charge $35 for pork chops.

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Anyway, I suspect that many of your competitors list producer information, not because they care about any of the issues discussed in this thread, but because it makes it significantly easier to charge $35 for pork chops.
Those pork chops cost more.

Fraudulent appellations aside, charging more for designer trouser name-brand than generic jeans is acceptable. Those haberdashers and farmers themselves charge more for their selective quality products, and the cost is correctly cushioned by guests who are free to consume elsewhere. Surely most pay attention to their shoes' & booze's original trademark and gladly pay accordingly more for Fluevogs over Fleischmann’s based on a generally proven pedigree of better aesthetic and/or sensory taste.

If one can be bothered to proof-read their own posts, read much of the useless spontaneous dribble in between and grocery/liquor store product labels, surely they can spare the restauranteurs' sourcing or producers' pride their cheeky skepticism.

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I'm a latecomer to this thread, but...

If I'm going to a place like Citronelle where the highlight is the majesty of the chef's art, I don't care.

If I'm going to a place like American Flatbread where the use of fresh, quality, local ingredients is highlighted, I do care - because, hey, maybe I want to stop at the farmer's market and pick up some of this stuff myself.

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Having your menu or waitstaff tell me that my pork chop hails from Manor Farm does not let me know that it was "raised in ways that don't pollute the environment or exploit the farmworker." If you want me to know that, you should tell me that, and also tell me how it is that you know, so that I can gauge for myself the quality of the information.
I am truly not understanding you. If people are irritated by seeing the name of the producer on the menu, then they will be even more irritated with a paragraph under each item listing the growing conditions of the arugula and eactly how the beef was slaughtered. If the menu lists a place of origin, it's easy for the diner to investigate and find out how the food on the plate was raised. If I see, for instance, "Eco-Friendly" on a menu then I can call them or use the Google to find out more.
And, whatever you do, please don't use words like "humane," "organic," or (worst of all) "natural," because we all know that those words are meaningless
The US government may have watered down "organic," but "humane" still means something.
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My inner cynic (OK, maybe not so inner) has a little sympathy for RW. If I dine around DC there's a certain fun in seeing producers' names because I'm aqauinted with so many of them and it's always nice to see them get a little recognition -- it's like seeing your buddie's picture in the paper. And, in my experience, the care in shopping has been matched by skill in execution, yielding a high-quillity meal. So I have a favorable Pavlovian response to Polyface, right down to the saliva thing.

But I wonder if we will soon -- or have recently -- reached the point where, in many establishments, this becomes merely and exercise in branding, meant to impress the uninitiated, enhance the restaurant's image and justify higher prices. At what point will the arugula equivalent of "Angus Beef" infiltrate the menu vocabulary, and when will "produced by Stony Creek Acres Farms" become simply a fashion statement, like the server's uniforms or the art behind the bar, rather than a meaningful eco-politico-philosophic statement?

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I enjoy it all, including " A melange of Sysco lettuce, aged since last Thursday in our thermally stabilized storage unit".

But then I am a word guy.

It is a little weird when the menu says "Dry aged steak, yadda, yadda, yadda" and "Succulent Maine lobster, yadda,

yadda, yadda" and the server says "surf and turf". Not that I have anything against Morton's.

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At what point will the arugula equivalent of "Angus Beef" infiltrate the menu vocabulary, and when will "produced by Stony Creek Acres Farms" become simply a fashion statement, like the server's uniforms or the art behind the bar, rather than a meaningful eco-politico-philosophic statement?

I think we're already there.

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Doesn't that depend on the producer?

And the chef/restaurant. I think at several highly regarded restaurants diners like us have a good deal of confidence that what we're reading is true and not for show. Now, if I were dining in say, Boonton NJ, where the menu read "fell off the back of a truck"-I'd believe it.

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Doesn't that depend on the producer?

I was speaking more to the general practice of listing producers and using sourcing to market restaurants. So, no I don't think it really depends on the producer or the chef. Good food will always depend on good producers, but I think the current practice of emphasizing producers on the menu is driven largely by trend.

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