Interview with Michael Durett – Executive Chef
Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club
Demand vs. Availability
While doing some research on chefs who go beyond the farm-to-table modality to taking that extra educated step in bringing a compelling product / vendor to their restaurant, I can appreciate the challenges afforded the novice as well as gourmand appetite for working in the grass-fed beef into their repertoire.
There is a basic need to determine the affordability of introducing select meats which, in this case, are procured through a U.S.-based purveyor qualified in selecting product from Uruguay, South America – specifically, Estancia grass-fed beef. Estancia’s reputation for selectively managing their cattle, which are sustained on feeding from the purest grasses on their farmlands where they are on steady rotation to new grass crops, and ultimately presents a quality type of beef.
The intent to market the “particularly best tasting, healthiest, and most sustainable beef on the market” may prove to be more of a challenge for the end-user’s budget and overall consumer adaptability. New taste for quality product tends to introduce higher prices, which must be passed on to the dining patron.
An initial sampling menu introduced to the diners might fare well, especially with a customized menu identifying the origins of the beef (as presented) as well as the history of the Estancia farm. Providing a briefing on the beefing (i.e., the manner in which the cattle are farmed) is suitable for marketing the product, while adding such devoted tag phrases as “sustainability” and “transparency” (from pasture to plate).
There is a specific customer base which adheres to selectivity and healthy choices; however, there may not be sufficient demand to accomplish continued service. When asked recently about the challenges experienced at a local private country club about their success rate and its membership response to the new menu (featuring the Estancia beef), Chef indicated he had no problem purchasing the international product from his local distributor and did not need any special license as the purveyor did the actual purchasing of the product from South America. The real problem, however, eventually became the supply and demand factor. The supply is there, however, the demand in our country is not for this kind of beef product as of yet.
That makes sense, but when pressed further, Chef indicated there was a glitch in the selling program from the originating farm: They (Estancia) were not able to get the program going (beyond their introductory sales) as it’s very difficult to start a new program like this without the demand. So, Chef has had to revert from this farm-to-table positioning to using a domestic source for its beef.
Never give up on being challenged.
Thank you, Chef Michael, for your excellent repertoire of presenting fine dining with flair, gusto, and a savvy interpretation of your contemporary recipes. See you in Las Vegas!
Source – Michael Durett, Executive Chef, Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club (Florida)