Sodexo recently launched a new farm-to-table, chef-driven dining concept called Local Artisan at the National Geographic headquarters building in downtown Washington, DC, that transforms corporate cafés by providing a locally-grown menu full of food. The centerpiece of Local Artisan is the community table where the Chief Artisan, a specially selected chef whose primary focus is ensuring that hand-picked, fresh ingredients are at the heart of each menu, highlights local and seasonal ingredients that are used in daily menu planning.
Customers can come together at the community table where they are greeted by the Chief Artisan, enjoy the day’s offering, learn more about the ingredients featured, or participate in healthy-cooking demonstrations. Local Artisan is designed to create a farm-to-table experience for customers as they meet with local growers who come directly to the cafe.
For example, Gregg Keckler, owner/farmer of Orchard County Produce in Cumberland County, PA, recently hosted a farm stand at National Geographic and diners were so enthusiastic about the heirloom apples and winter crop root vegetables that this spring he started bringing fresh produce weekly. Keckler collaborates with National Geographic’s Chief Artisan Matt Crudder on ways to incorporate peak-season produce into the menu.
Using a recent crop of rhubarb and lemon balm, Crudder created a very popular lemon balm scented pound cake with a blackberry–rhubarb compote. He dried the excess lemon balm to use as a marinade for local, line-caught, grilled Wreckfish, also known as Stone Bass.
“The Chief Artisan at each location is the bridge between the food and the local community—it’s all about the stories that the food provides at the table,” says Local Artisan Culinary Director Robert Maluso. “Providing people a way to get engaged in their dining experience is creating excitement at our locations, and customers enjoy taking the time to stop and talk with our chefs about what they are eating and how it’s prepared.”
Sodexo plans to open 10 Local Artisan locations in the coming year. The program is aligned with the commitments in Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Plan, the company’s sustainability initiative that includes sourcing local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients; providing varied and balanced food options; and supporting the local communities where the company operates.