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Chefs Farm Their Own for Freshest Tables

Niche in Geneva, Ill., started a farm last spring a few miles from the restaurant. It's the first restaurant in the area to grow and serve their very own, fresh food. "With the help of farmer Ted Reitcher running our sustainably grown farm just minutes from the restaurant, we literally just head to the farm when we run out of something. It couldn't be more fresh," said Serena Perdue, Niche's executive chef. "From heirloom tomatoes to Tuscan kale to rainbow chard, I have been able to incorporate some of the freshest ingredients I have ever worked with into the menu, and it makes a huge difference in the taste of the food."

In Chicago, Executive Chef Patrick Quakenbush at Zed 451 has a rooftop garden growing mint, apple mint, lemon balm, rosemary, basil, red hot chilis and jalapenos. "At Zed 451, we live and die by fresh and seasonal," Quakenbush says. "There is a very short season here in Chicago, so we take full advantage of the warm weather. Nothing better than fresh-picked mint in your mojito, lemon balm sorbet on a hot summer day and fresh-picked basil on your buratta-and-heirloom tomato salad."

In New Haven Conn., the owners of Claire's Corner Copia and Basta Trattoria have been growing their own produce for decades. Their gardens, Giardino del Mare, are near the beach and consist of 39 organic Earth Boxes and large raised beds. Additionally, the garden at 116 Crown provides the restaurant with a wide variety of produce used extensively on the menu and in signature cocktails. This spring they also harvested garlic from the restaurant's back patio to use on pizzettes and other delectables. Two beehives provide honey and cut comb for dishes and drinks, as well as pollination for the garden.

But the green market is not to be forgotten, says Executive Chef Shaun Hergatt at SHO Shaun Hergatt. "Never forget the greenmarket. Always support your local provider," he says. "If you are lucky enough to have your own garden, it can only enhance the experience of the restaurant."

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