The Changing Face of Food in Charlotte

Last week, Chef Matthew Krenz (The Asbury) stopped by our booth at Atherton Market.  He said something that has stuck with me.  He mentioned that over the past year he really has seen a positive change in the food scene at the market and all over Charlotte.  He went on to say that a couple of years ago, the farmers markets had the basic types of produce and not much variety.  Now, the market is full of so many different choices, it is a serious “produce education” to stop by all the booths!  What causes this type of change?  

To begin with, food trends start in fine restaurants and are dictated by excellent chefs.  There are so many great chefs in Charlotte, and they all seem to have no fear of unusual ingredients.  You can bet that if they find something cool and interesting on a market table, it is going to show up in something delicious that night at some great restaurant.  This type of inventive work drives growers to meet that need and constantly strive to grow and bring the coolest stuff!  It has changed the face of the market.  If fine restaurants begin serving unusual foods like wild foraged nettles and ramps, and make them delicious, it won’t be long before consumers want to explore these ingredients themselves.  Most consumers are first introduced to new foods at a nice restaurant.  

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The paleo movement also seems to have shifted food trends.  The paleo eaters who stop by the market are not only looking for healthy vegetables, but are thrilled if they can find edible flowers, wild foraged greens, all types of herbs and more unusual items. I think this is a great idea!  The more varied the diet, with every type of healthy and colorful thing, the better.  I remember a few years ago there was no way I would be able to sell garnet stemmed dandelions.  Yesterday the paleo eaters snatched those up like there was no tomorrow!

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Additionally, “local food” is red hot!  Large commercial growers might feed the world, but small local growers romance the world.  I love the way so many people in the Charlotte area are committed to buying local! The commitment is so deep, that they plan their meals around what is available seasonally from their local growers.  We have regular market customers who don’t buy produce at the grocery store.  They get it at the market and choose from what is available.  Our CSA customers are the same. Their meals come from what is in their CSA bag, which is local and seasonal.  This type of commitment to local produce gives growers huge freedom to try new things, because they know their customer base is committed to seasonal local produce, to the point they are willing to go outside their comfort zone and try new things.  

We live in a wonderful city.  My bet is that one day Charlotte will be known as a food destination.  The food is here. The chefs are here. The customers are here. It won’t be long.

Eat your veggies,
Robin

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