Blog

April 16, 2024

How to Find Fresh Ingredients

By

by Brandon Roddy

Culinary Director

Brandon, Culinary Director, Chef, Butcher knife. Cleaver, Culinary Crafts, black apron, man holding knife

As a chef, I have had the privilege of cooking in some wonderful restaurants and working alongside amazing chefs (including the inimitable Wolfgang Puck and Melissa King). I have enjoyed delicious haute cuisine from all around the world, but the best meal I ever had was about as far from fancy cooking as you can get.

My Best Meal

A few years ago, I was invited to the Cayman Islands to spend a week working as a private chef. An old culinary friend joined me in the adventure, and we spent the week cooking lunches and dinners for a family of about 30 people. After working 12-14 hours per day all week, my buddy and I were delighted to finally get a day off. We spent the morning laying in hammocks at the beach, relaxing and drinking rum.

For lunch, we’d been invited to join a local gentleman who took care of the family's property where we were working. He led us to an old tumble-down shack behind a dilapidated gas station. The shack stood on an outcropping overlooking the Caribbean Sea and all its countless shades of blue. Just below the shack, a small fishing boat lay anchored to a rock. Our new friend told us that the boat belonged to the owner of the shack, and that he went out every morning to catch the fish he cooked and served.

My friend and I let our guide order for us. We enjoyed fresh-caught roasted snapper, fried plantains, cassava (yuca), and pickled vegetables, all served in simple Styrofoam clamshells with plastic utensils. Before eating, our host told to squeeze fresh lemon onto everything. To wash it all down, our guide brought out some Black Rum. I don’t know if it was the flavorful ingredients bought at the local market that morning, the fresh fish, the scenery, the delightful conversation, or just the rum, but I realized that I was enjoying the best meal of my life!

Keeping It Fresh

I’ve never forgotten that experience. It always reminds me that the essence of making great food is keeping it simple and fresh. As much as I love sophisticated culinary innovations and techniques, nothing will ever replace plain, fresh, local ingredients.

And if you can enjoy them on a Caribbean beach with friends…well, that’s just the best.

fresh ingredients, lemons, red peppers, asparagus, vegetables, blue rubber bands, fresh veggies

Brandon’s Tips for Finding Fresh Ingredients

THINK LOCAL

The simplest way to find fresh ingredients is to buy them locally. When your food comes directly from the farm rather than being packaged, preserved, and shipped halfway around the world, it’s generally fresher and more flavorful. Plus, you can support your local food producers while also reducing your carbon footprint. Sourcing locally is delicious, nutritious, and judicious.

VISIT FARMERS’ MARKETS

Besides offering the freshest possible ingredients, farmers’ markets are also the ideal place to meet local producers and get a foot into that community. Talk to the merchants there. Ask them about how their goods are produced and what they recommend. Even if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, chances are they can point you in the right direction.

Utah has some great farmer’s markets. Salt Lake City has regular markets at Pioneer Park and Liberty Park through the summer and fall. Also, the Gateway hosts an indoor market from November to April. You can learn more here.

For info on farmer’s markets all over the state, check out the Utah’s Own website.

MEET YOUR GROCER AND BUTCHER

It pays to get to know the butcher and grocer at your local grocery store. Ask them when they make fresh bread and what days their fresh produce arrives. If they get to know you and see your enthusiasm for fresh ingredients, they can often help you with insider tips.

DON’T OVERLOOK PRODUCE STANDS

At certain times of the year, stands start popping up all over Utah. They offer watermelons, peaches, corn, apples, cherries, and a whole range of fresh produce. If you haven’t been brave enough to stop and check them out, give it a try. Don’t feel like you’re obligated to buy if you’re not impressed with what you see, but sometimes produce stands are where I have found the very best deals.

GET TO KNOW “FRESH” VENDORS

Some vendors in Utah go out of their way to offer the best in fresh. Caputo’s in SLC is a great place to be introduced to Utah meats, cheeses, honey, chocolate, and other local ingredients. Aquarius Fish Co. is doing a fantastic job bringing fresh seafood to our desert state. Snuck Farm is great for their greens. The Utah’s Own website can give you information on Utah growers and producers, recipes that use local ingredients, and ideas for how to support Utah’s agricultural community.

27x winner Utah’s Best of State

24x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year