Explaining “Farm to Table”

Bobo Dining Room (photo credit: Logan Hodson)

Ray and I recently had an absolutely delicious meal at Bobo in NYC’s West Village. We tried the steak frites and the steak tartare (both sounded too good to pass up). On top of amazing drinks and an outdoor seating area, the restaurant boasted a farm to table menu. Farm to table is a term thrown around more and more with a desirable connotation, but I wanted to figure out exactly what it meant. So Bobo’s Executive Chef Patrick Connolly broke it down for me.

Steak Tartare at BOBO

Bobo Chef Patrick Connolly

Method Wellness: The phrase “farm-to-table” is becoming more popular – what exactly does it mean, and how do you incorporate that at Bobo?

PC: In a general sense, pretty much all food is “farm-to-table” but first by way of farm, to truck, to airplane, to truck, to warehouse, and then to table. The term ‘farm to table’ is more about the focus on the traceability of food, and this happens though chefs developing direct relationships with the people who grow the food we serve. It just so happens that most of those farmers implement organic methods in their farming. Bobo recently signed up with Real Time Farms to put our menu online, virtually linking visitors to information about the specific farms our ingredients are sourced from. We’ve also started a small garden on our patio where we grow heirloom tomatoes as well as herbs, such as mint and thyme, which we use in dishes.

Method Wellness: What is the benefit of eating locally?

PC: The main benefit is flavor and quality. Most of the local farms we source from are organic, so the soil is better and crops tastes better. The food travels a shorter distance, so it is fresher. It supports a local economy. The process also demands more respect from the cook, which just makes better dishes.

Method Wellness: Why do you like cooking with seasonal ingredients?

PC: I feel that all great regional cuisines occurred naturally by reacting to the ingredients that occurred locally. Different seafood dishes come from coastal regions, soy-based foods from East Asia where the soybean is indigenous, great hams from Spain and Italy, etc. etc. The only way to define an American cuisine is to do as all other great cuisines have done and create dishes in reaction to the season rather than forcing it unnaturally, such as offering a Caprese Salad in January with tomatoes from Ecuador.

Method Wellness: My husband and I ate the delicious Steak Frites and Steak Tartare dishes – where did the beef come from and how did you choose it?

PC: We use beef from a few sources. Tony Padgett’s farm in Washington County, NY, Rosencranz Farm from the Finger Lakes, and from the Midwest Imperial Wagyu and Niman Ranch, whose beef program in St. Louis is run by my high school’s rugby coach. We try to be realistic about the challenges of keeping some consistency to the menu while sourcing locally and serving the best quality possible. We love to get the local beef, but it’s just not possible all the time so we rely on the other terrific products to fill in the blanks. Currently, the Steak Frites is sourced from Midwest Imperial Wagyu and the steak tartare is from Rosencranz. Bobo’s burger is made exclusively with beef from Padgett.

Special thanks to Chef Connolly for his time answering these questions!