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Do you cultivate the best black currents or produce the best cheese? It’s only natural that you dream of giving chefs access to your bounty to help them perfect their dishes. However, establishing a relationship with them calls for hard work and solid people skills. Restaurant owners share their advice to demystify the process, enabling you to take your products from farm to table at their restaurant.
"People often think that we're impossible to get a hold of, but the trick is to catch us when things slow down," says Jonathan Grenon, a chef at Auberge des Battures in La Baie, Saguenay.
One way chefs can meet suppliers is through speed meetings. Last spring in Chicoutimi, Grenon attended a speed meeting event with just over a dozen agricultural producers and 20 or so chefs. The purpose was to find out exactly what chefs are looking for and need when it comes to perishable goods.
Do your homework
Before meeting with a well-known local chef, you should take a few minutes to look over the menu. Nancy Ouellet, who heads up communications at Table agroalimentaire du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and was at the event, recommends that you start by asking yourself if the chef would be interested in what you've got to offer.
Meet with the chef
Chefs really enjoy meeting with suppliers. Building solid relationships with his suppliers is really important to Grenon. He's got lots of great things to say about his vegetable supplier, Josée Gagné, who even invited him to tour her vegetable garden.
When we spoke with Grenon, he'd just come back from the garden with a box full of lettuce, fennel, herbs and tomatoes.
Chefs always want to serve the freshest produce to their guests. So, what does it take to convince a chef to choose you over another supplier? For Grenon, it all comes down to quality, local-grown produce.
Nurture the relationship
Nurturing the relationship you've developed with a chef is very important. Grenon is constantly hearing from artisans and suppliers. "Some days you really luck out, like the time my vegetable supplier texted me to let me know she had more Italian tomatoes than she knew what to do with. Two days later I was going to be serving bruschetta at a wedding. Talk about perfect timing!"
Dare to discover
Chefs love trying new things. Samples from suppliers are always welcome! "I've just discovered hemp seeds and am now using them in my recipes," says a member of the kitchen staff at Auberge des Battures.
Promote local produce
Since 2015, Grenon has been a member of the Ambassadeurs des saveurs, a group of 12 chefs who make a point of using local cheeses, milk, bread, pastries and meats.
"Our 12 ambassadors are using their talent to get the word out about our amazing local produce," explains Ouellet.
Want to know more?
Read the complete article on Desjardins’ website.