Yesterday I headed up to Portsmouth, NH for the first of what we hope will become a series of meetings with Seacoast area chefs. At the helm of the meeting was chef Evan Mallett of Black Trumpet Bistro, the CC Local Leader for the Seacoast area. After a quick round of introductions we settled into establishing what CC’s role would be in their area.
The idea of developing “Locals” within the larger CC network is that every community has its own sets of successes and shortcomings and these are best addressed on a case by case basis. As we’ve reported on, in Rhode Island these issues largely surround composting and fresh meat sourcing. Portsmouth, and the Seacoast in general, have an excellent composting program, they do, however, have some issue with fresh meat sourcing. This largely revolves around the space  limits of chefs’ walk-ins and with their ability to take in whole animals. By connecting them we hope to find ways around this by splitting animals and sharing fridge space.
Another subject we broached was the ability of farmers to convey what products they would have and when. Unlike other areas of the country, the Seacoast has no real consolidated farmer direct distribution network.  Again, by uniting like minded chefs we strive to make them more approachable as a group and further develop the avenues for farmers to get their products directly into these chefs kitchens.
By far, however, the most important issue that we touched on was that of sourcing seafood. We’ve seen some great strides being made in Southern New England thanks to the efforts of Trace and Trust but, to date, nothing like this exists for the Northern coastal areas. All of the chefs expressed frustration at being able to look out the windows of their restaurants at jumping stripers and lobster pots and not being able to touch that seafood until it travelled through distribution networks that may take the fish, first, to a processing facility states away. We don’t have a clear answer to solve this but now we have a rally point to organize the local community around, one specific to this locale.
Every community is different but can equally learn from within and externally.  Chefs Collaborative is excited to help facilitate these conversations and help communities evolve to be more sustainable and more successful, we look forward to working with Evan and the chefs of the Seacoast in general for a better future for everyone.