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SmallBytes Winter 2013 Edition
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NYC Chapter Hosts Taste NY Event to discuss locally-sourced products


On Tuesday November 12, the NYS Restaurant Association held a networking event and panel discussion hosted by Chef Marc Murphy at Landmarc, Time Warner Center in New York City. The event was held in support of Governor Cuomo’s Taste NY initiative to encourage NYS Restaurant Association members and guests to connect with local vendors and take a pledge to use more locally-sourced products from New York State on their menus and in their restaurants.

This exclusive event invited select restaurant Owners, Producers, Chefs, CFO’s, COO’s and General Managers, who enjoyed a tasting menu featuring some of New York State’s best wines, meats, cheeses, produce, and a fresh oyster bar sponsored by Kevin Joseph of Blue Island Oyster Farms and a craft beer bar by Empire Brewing Company. Sponsors of the event were NYS Restaurant Association, Landmarc restaurant, NYC Hospitality Group, Governor Cuomo’s TasteNY Initiative, Jim Trezise of NY Wine and Grape Foundation and premier sponsor American Express.

James Versocki, NYS Restaurant Association Council, NYS Restaurant Association NYC Chapter Board Member Anthony Milano, of Crown Design and Consulting and NYC Hospitality Group moderated the impressive speaker panel of New York food and wine producers and industry leaders including Josh Vlasto, Governor’s Chief of Staff, Carmen Quagliata, Executive Chef and Managing Partner of Union Square Café, Trent Preszler, CEO of Bedell Cellars, Steve Hindy, President and Co-Founder of Brooklyn Brewery and Matthew Ranieri, VP of Operations of Old Chatham Sheepherding Company.

James and Anthony led an informative and enlightening discussion with the panelists on some of the issues and challenges that restaurateurs face in sourcing locally made products and vendors such as: availability, consistency, cost, lack of consistent markets and delivery mechanisms. The panelists also discussed reasons on how sourcing locally is advantageous for restaurateurs as well as the economy and small businesses in New York State.

Josh Vlasto opened up the panel discussion by discussing what the Taste NY initiative is and how the Governor is supporting Farm to Table with local New York products including beer, cider, dairy, produce, maple syrup, wine and spirits and other specialty products through events, stores, online and offline marketing and promotional efforts across the State. Governor Cuomo’s plan is not just about promoting the abundant food and beverage the state has to offer, but also about opening up critical markets for agricultural producers across New York State.

Vlasto also discussed how the NYS Restaurant Association has partnered with Taste NY to support the initiative with their members by encouraging restaurants, restaurant groups and chefs to take the Pride of New York pledge by increasing their use of New York State products by 10 percent or more and help spread the message to choose locally grown food and beverages and what the state has to offer.

Anthony Milano then spoke to give an overview of the NYC Hospitality Group and how it supports NYC restaurants with their infrastructure and daily operations through its networking group of hospitality industry professionals. NYC Hospitality Group partnered with the NYS Restaurant Association, Taste NY and Landmarc to educate and build a social network with industry peers through this great event. He then introduced the panel members asking them to discuss their interest in local sourcing.

AM: Marc, you are a recent convert to local sourcing and Carmen, you have been doing this for years, can you each please tell us why you are buying into the Taste NY initiative and sourcing locally in your operations?

Marc Murphy attended the recent Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit held by the Governor and was really impressed with what he is doing for the state and his efforts to make it thrive through the Taste NY program. As one of the first chefs to join the pledge, Murphy is "proud to support our great state and all of its amazing offerings from the best farms, butchers, brewers, distilleries and wineries.” He demonstrates his commitment and support for local products by serving New York State cheese, beers, wines and spirits at his restaurants. Murphy stated, "If we can do it here in NYC, it’s going to spread, and hopefully we can get people from other states to start buying New York products. It can only help us in the long run. It’s a no brainer – let’s get the stuff that our neighbors are making and get it into our restaurants – that’s what I’m doing and that’s why I’m a part of this whole thing – I think it’s fantastic.”

Carmen Quagliata said that local sourcing is something he just "fell into.” He grew up in a kitchen in Napa Valley California with local products growing up into the backyard. It’s a myth that ‘Farm to Table’ food is not affordable and he was pleasantly surprised how affordable it really is in urban centers. They support the local Greenmarket farmers by using local products in their restaurants because it sets Union Square Café apart from its competitors and their customers notice a difference. "There’s also environmental reasons why we buy and use local - the more we support these farmers, the better their businesses are going to get, the more product they are going to plant, the more they are going to distribute next year and every little bit that we do as chefs is going to help give back to the earth.”

JV: Trent, with NYC being such a thriving market place for wine connoisseurs, why should the restaurateurs in our audience be buying from Bedell Cellars and other in-state wineries? If they aren't, why aren't they?

Trent Preszler, Ph.D. of Bedell Cellars of Long Island, NY explained the importance of buying local wines from in-state wineries gave some insight on why some restaurateurs are not. "With the abundant amount of winemakers in the US and around the world, it is sometimes a daunting decision for restaurateurs which wineries to choose from for their wine menu selections. Relationships with local winemakers can be advantageous in terms of close proximity, local access to vineyards for staff visits and staff training on wine selections. Another reason to buy local is that the wines produced in New York State are world class. A lot of people in New York don’t have a real definition of ‘local’ because they aren’t from here and there are so many world class wine varietals to choose from. So they look all over the world for the best products and they overlook what is right here under their nose and in their backyard. With just a little bit of research, people would discover there are some beautiful wines right here in NY State.”

JV: Steve, how has the Governor changing some very antiquated prohibitionary laws impacted your business and do you see Brooklyn as a hub for beer and spirits being distilled? How can it grow?

Steve Hindy discussed how Brooklyn has grown as a hub for beer and spirits distilleries. "Brooklyn now has six working breweries and nine distilleries as well as four wineries. It’s back to the future really – Brooklyn is a great industrial borough and it’s inheriting an entrepreneurship that is making it a very exciting time to be in NYC and producing a beverage or food.” Brooklyn Brewery is now the biggest exporter of craft beer in the United States (25 percent of sales is export) and they sell in 25 states and 20 countries, with a new brewery opening in Stockholm next year. Hindy attributes their success to his unwavering belief in Brooklyn when he opened 25 years ago, despite naysayers. "New York travels very well, and I know the breweries and wineries in Upstate and Long Island deserve to be here in NYC and I’m very grateful to the Governor and the leadership in Albany for putting a spotlight on this industry.” The Governor has cleared away some very antiquated laws and regulations such as the revised Distribution and Transportation laws, which helps local breweries save a lot of time and money. Hindy also uses locally-sourced ingredients and grains from the Brooklyn Greenmarkets to brew his craft beers as another show of support for New York State. One of his brewmasters lives Upstate and is planting hops on her farm in Utica, which are then harvested and used in the distillery of some of their craft beers.

AM: Matt, what steps do you believe can be taken to increase distribution of Old Chatham and other in-state cheeses across the state, specifically NYC? As a producer, what are the impediments you see to your growth in NYC and what solutions do you have?

Matthew Ranieri, Ph.D. noted that there are plenty of quality cheese makers blooming in Upstate NY. "We really want to get more restaurants and buyers to try NYS products, and one of the advantages is that we’re only a few hours from the city, making it easy to come visit the farms and improve the distribution with local farmers. Centralized food hubs and warehouses in NYC is one of our goals.” One major hurdle to business growth for local cheese makers and farmers is working across a number of channels – they work with over a dozen distributors just in NYC alone. Ranieri is trying to work with distributors to offer fresher product sampling to restaurateurs and customers in order to familiarize them with his and other local products and make them realize that New York State has something great to offer.

JV: Carmen, Union Square Café has been hosting quarterly Morning Market Meetings with Greenmarket farmers for the past 28 years, long before Farm to Table was a fad. What impact has this foresight had on your business? Who are your major partners in that greenmarket process and how can other operators take advantage of the greenmarkets?

Carmen Quagliata stated "the biggest challenge in implementing Farm to Table is that if you’re not close to a Greenmarket how does one get fresh local products into their restaurant?” Quagliata works with major players within walking distance to Union Square Café but that’s not the case for a lot of other restaurateurs and operators. "The key is distribution and communication with the farmers and online outlets such as It’s all in your relationships with the farmer and not all great farmers come to the market – there’s many great farms as well as consolidators such as GrowNYC, that deliver amazing local produce from around New York State. It’s harder to get local products in Upstate New York than it is to get it in NYC because that’s where all the farmer’s sales come from. So how do we make it more accessible to operators in Buffalo and Syracuse? That’s the next step of challenges.” Versocki noted that the Pride of New York website lists providers and farms that produce and grow local products around New York State.

AM: Trent, Steve, Matt, we are going to underhand this to all of you. If you had to let our audience know one reason why your produce is superior to the competition and one reason they should be sourcing locally, what would they be?

Trent Preszler, Ph.D. was asked why his wine is superior to the competition and why the audience should be sourcing locally too. "Farm to Table is not something new to human culture, and this is how people have constructed their tables for thousands of years. We’ve fallen victim to the local food movement being disconnected from the local wine movement. We are growing our grapes in the same soils that Satur Farms is growing their arugula on the North Fork of Long Island, yet many NYC restaurants don’t source their wines locally as they do with their food. This is changing due to local food efforts but people should make these issues top of mind.” He also noted that New York State wines are the most sustainable choice for NYC restaurants because they are the lowest carbon footprint and are only 80 miles down the road, compared to wines coming from California, which are delivered by truck cross-country. Building relationships with and knowing your local farmers and local grape growers are equally important.

Steve Hindy also commented on reasons to source locally. His new book "The Craft Beer Revolution” tells the whole story of the new craft beer industry which is more than 10 percent of the US market and is growing very rapidly. "NYS is playing an important role in that. Our brewmaster Garrett Oliver is a very proud ambassador for Brooklyn and New York State and travels around the world speaking at conferences about the subject.

JV: Marc, to close this out, what are the obstacles NYC restaurateurs have to overcome in regards to competitively sourcing more products and what aspect of the Taste NY campaign are you most excited to see grow?

Marc Murphy closed out the panel by encouraging NYC restaurateurs to visit their local greenmarkets, seek out New York State food and beverage purveyors and take the Taste NY pledge and commit to using and sourcing more local products on their menus and in their restaurants.

Click here to see photos from this event.
To see what’s on the agenda for the Taste NY in 2013 click here.

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