For anyone who has dined at my restaurants or followed my career for the past 20 years know that I have always credited the farm or stated the provenance of my menu items. Since my first trip to the wine country of Northern California, I was inspired to cook with only the freshest and best foodstuffs available on the market. I recently came across an old menu circa 1989 of the original pre-fire KC's. Our old friend Kelly Grimmett gave it to my brother Don as a gift/memento. Her note read that it was a much treasured item, but knew that it would mean much more to us. We lost everything in the fire that completely destroyed the original restaurant. But back to the menu. I was amazed and amused at some of my early creations. Even then, in 1988, I realized the importance of using the very best products, most of them straight from the source. Some examples were free-range natural veal from Summerfield Farm, black buck antelope from Broken Arrow Ranch, Jamison Farm lamb, Chinese Long Beans, okra, peas, and other ultra fresh vegetables from my mother's garden, soft shell crawfish from a lady outside Jackson, MS, shiitake mushrooms from Ms. Odom in Merigold, Ms. and so on.
I've been preaching the message of organic and natural products here in the Mid-South for the last 20 years. When it wasn't cool or trendy, I was using those products. I find it heartening that young chefs of this generation are finally catching on to cooking with natural and sustainable foodstuffs. What I find disheartening though are chefs that claim to cook in this fashion, but pay only lip service. There are guys out there that that claim to use only farmer's market produce or other products but actually using stuff straight from Sysco. I spent a fortune buying products from the best producers, fishermongers, and farmers. Would most people notice the difference? Arguably no. And that is what many chefs count on. They hope that you won't notice the difference between a dry-aged prime beef strip or a cryovac wet-aged choice beef from US Foods or Sysco. The difference in price is double. What does that mean? It means they are probably charging you $40.00 for a steak that should only cost you $25.00. I've noticed stuff like this on a lot of menus. You may ask how would I know what they are using in their kitchens. Well, the honest truth of the matter is that purveyors do talk. They won't admit it, but they like to gossip more than a teenage girl. A common sales tactic with sales rep is to say that Chef X or Y Restaurant uses this very cheap item but charging "$30" for it. Is that supposed to entice me to buy it too? Quite the opposite! My only goal is to offer the best to my guests. Now I don't claim to use everything of the highest caliber. It wouldn't make economical sense to make a stock or sauce with expensive organic onions and carrots. My point is when you are claiming to serve prime beef or wild salmon, you damn well better be serving that!