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Nemacolin Chef Is An Auction Addict... Buying Local Is A MUST!

There is nothing like the local produce grown in Western Pennsylvania. This time of year the tomatoes are ripe, corn is super sweet and the onions are memorable. Yes, a memorable onion, who would have thought it to be possible? But as I walk the rows and rows of fresh local fruits and vegetables at local auctions while buying produce for all Nemacolin's restaurants, sometimes I think that the onions are so good that they look like they were photoshopped. That is what farmer attention and genuine caring for their products produces... it can be amazing.

There are countless reasons why buying local food is both rewarding and delicious, including enjoying the taste of fresh food, improved health and nutrition, environmental stewardship, and support for family farms and rural communities. But for me, and the many Chef's at Nemacolin it’s all about the unmatched flavor that the Laurel Highlands can add to a vegetable. The earthy garden that can make a huge difference between a red tomato and an Amish farmer grown tomato that was picked that day. In some cases, they might not be perfect, but when you put your nose close to them and bask in that natural fantastic smell of a freshly picked beefsteak tomato bursting with juice, there is no comparison to what you might find in a grocery store. I attend and buy from two to three rural auctions a week searching for the best of the best for our guests and get to meet some fantastic people along the way.

Developing a relationship with local farmers gives me an "in" with our local food system. At produce auctions I meet the farmer who has devoted his life to the vegetables he is holding and get incomparable insight about the growing seasons, upcoming crops, and often, take a tour of the farm our food comes from. There is nothing like rubbing elbows with the folks responsible for the food I serve and it allows me in some cases, to form fit crops to my needs and the needs of our guests.

Another significant reason to buy local, is to keep food miles to a minimum. "Food miles" refer to the distance a food item travels from the farm to your home. This all comes down to a Chef caring intensely about what they serve, getting the absolute best, and building strong connections to local area farms that are trying to survive.

I was speaking to an Amish gentleman this week about the comparison of his tomatoes to those grown in far-away places and he summed it up in a very short but meaningful manner. “Chef, relative to tomatoes from far and near it’s simple… gas ripens theirs and God ripens mine.” Hard to argue with a hardworking man who is so in touch with his product he absolutely dares you to compare.

Chef Brent Wertz
Food & Beverage VP, Executive Chef
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort


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