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Baltimore Chefs take local produce to a new level — the roof

Alan Morstein, owner of Regi’s American Bistro on Light Street in Federal Hill, shows off the 55-plant rooftop tomato garden atop his restaurant. Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.

Chefs, inspired by local-foods movement, aren’t just buying from farmers
they want to be the farmer

By Laura Vozzella
The Baltimore Sun
June 22, 2010


High atop Regi’s American Bistro in Federal Hill, 55 tomato plants grow in large pots, strategically located along support beams so they don’t strain the rowhouse roof.

Looking for a more affordable, dependable source for the tasty heirloom varieties that can fetch $4 to $5 a pound at area farmers’ markets, Regi’s owner Alan Morstein this spring created a rooftop tomato farmette that he proudly shows off to diners. Regi’s chefs Mike Broglio and Ben Troast have grown used to them, traipsing through the prep area to reach the roof.

“We joke that it’s the 7:30 tour,” Broglio said.

“We don’t have a chef’s table,” Troast added. “We’re going to have a tomato table up there.”

First there was farm-to-table dining. Now, “rooftop-to-tabletop,” as Morstein calls it.

The same local-foods movement that has revived interest in home gardening is leading more chefs and restaurateurs to grow some of their own ingredients. They’ve been dealing directly with local farmers in recent years. Now, no longer content to just buy from the farmer, some chefs want to be the farmer.

That urge has given rise to a few restaurant farms, like the 5-acre spread in Howard County that restaurateur Qayum Karzai started three years ago to supply produce to his Helmand, b and Tapas Teatro restaurants. But many of these commercial kitchen gardens are sprouting atop the very restaurants they supply.

See the rest of the article here.