Jonathan Stich, Restaurant Delivery Farmer: A Week In The Life (Food Informants)
Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.
Jonathan Stich, 29, is a third generation farmer from Burlington, Wisconsin. He grew weary of the corporate world, went traveling and decided to become a farmer. After reading about how heirloom tomato grower Tim Stark in Pennsylvania sells his products to New York restaurants, Stich made the decision to spend a night in restaurants in Milwaukee and Chicago asking if they’d be interesting in buying local produce.
In the summer of 2010, Anthony Martin, who had just taken over for Rick Tramonto at Chicago’s TRU, was his first customer. In 2011, after bugging Dave Beran (then of Alinea, now the chef of Next restaurant) through Facebook all winter, Beran invited Stich to bring him some samples of micro greens. Stich knew Alinea was important in the Chicago restaurant scene, but didn’t know who Grant Achatz was. Dave connected Stich to Matt Chasseur (sous chef at Alinea), who placed his first order for pea tendrils, and explained a centerpiece project he was working on. He asked Stich if there were any varieties of a cherry tomato plant that would fit on a table, so the diner could pluck the them as they ate. Stich decided to impress him the next week by bringing in grafted cherry tomato plants — three different fruit-bearing tomato plants that are cut and grafted together into one stem. It would give the diner the illusion that one plant could produce three different fruits. While Stich was standing at the pass in the Alinea kitchen examining his creations, someone tapped his elbow. When he looked up, Chasseur was standing there with Grant Achatz. He explained the concept and for his ace card he showed them a bucket filled with five pounds of large blonde morels. Between Alinea, Aviary and Next, they have placed an order every week since.
Along with those Chicago restaurants, Stich also supplies TRU, Le Reve, Cafe at the Plaza and Honeypie Cafe.
Read Jonathan Stich’s diary below to learn about the life of a farmer and find out how he satisfies the demands of some of the country’s top restaurants.
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