Top NY chefs promote benefits of locally-grown food

Fri Oct 8, 2010 5:55pm EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Some of New York's top chefs defended the benefits of buying and cooking locally produced meats and vegetables to support regional farmers.

The "locavore" movement is based on the notion that eating food grown by local farmers is better and more flavorful than products transported from across the country.

"Farmers grow what they can sell," Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of the restaurant Blue Hill in New York, said during the New York City Wine & Food Festival that began on Thursday.

Critics of the movement have questioned the social, economic and nutritional benefits of "eating local." They have also cited the higher costs of the food, compared to what is sold in supermarkets.

There has also been confusion about what makes a product local and the limits of how far food can be shipped and still be considered fresh. Many restaurants, including fast-food chains, also adopt the label by claiming they support local farmers.

Tom Colicchio, who is the head chef and proprietor of the restaurant Craft said some restaurants buy one local product just so they can say they are supporting local farmers.

The chefs supporting the movement called for greater government incentives, land protection for farming and cooperation between farmers and restaurants.

The four-day festival features chefs, wine-makers and other food merchants promoting the city's culinary culture. Proceeds from the festival benefit local charities fighting hunger.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney)