Farmers Markets connect restaurants with fresh fruits, incredible vegetables, wild fish, pasture-raised meat and dairy all while helping to support small businesses and strengthen the local economy. Whether you're starting to think about incorporating local vendors into your ingredient sourcing or are already a seasoned market pro, here are top tips from chefs on how they approach shopping their local farmers market.

1

Plan Ahead

“Don't just buy, talk to the vendors; they will often give you information about the products they will be bringing to market over the next couple of weeks. As a restaurant, it's great to be able to plan a little.”

Dieter Samijn, Executive Chef of Bar Boulud in New York, NY
2

Go Early

“I like to go early before the crowds. Heading to the market when it opens allows me plenty of time to schmooze and form relationships.”

Brandon Hicks, Executive Chef of ZINO in Berkeley, California
3

Get to Know Your Farmer

“The farmer-chef relationship is very personal and built on trust and mutual respect. Show up to the market every single week, develop relationships, and get to know the people at the market and how they operate. I always tend to buy more than I need at the markets. You directly support small businesses and hardworking folk; it's our job, as chefs, to figure out how to use their products in our restaurants. I also bring my daughter with me on most trips. She's too cute to ignore and always makes the farmers laugh with her antics. It has helped me develop that personal relationship that's so important.”

Zachary Engel, Executive Chef & Owner of Galit Restaurant in Chicago, IL
 
“Building a great relationship with the vendors is key; they inform me about all of the new products in the market and of course, offer competitive prices. Then make sure that they always come in person to bring the product.”

Patrizio La Gioia, Sous Chef of Baccarat Hotel in New York, NY

“Learn about the company, farmers, and specialty product they sell and quantity.”

Lamar Moore, Chef Partner of The Swill Inn in Chicago, IL
4

Take Your Time

“Ask, listen, and taste everything you can. Do not go in a rush. You will miss the nuances of what is happening. I often ask if they have anything they would want to see on the menu.”

Jamie Bissonnette, Chef & Owner of Coppa, Little Donkey, and Toro Restaurants in Boston, MA and New York, NY

 

You are able to look for quality in real time. Use all of your senses when looking over produce when doing menu development and weekly specials.”

Todd Lean, Executive Chef of Pod Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA

5

Be Fluid

“Have a list but be prepared to go off course”

Ben Goodnick, Divisional Chef for Lettuce Entertain You, Chicago, IL

 

“I like to walk around and see what sticks out and speaks to me. The vibrancy and freshness of the right product should scream, "Pick me!" It could be a variety of things or one thing you create a meal around.”

Craig Richards, Chef and Owner of Lyla Lila in Atlanta, GA

 

“Learn about the farms you buy from; certain farms specialize in different meat and produce. Talk to the farmer. Ask questions (what just came in? What is at its peak? etc.) Touch/ smell the produce. Don't go to the market with a particular dish in mind. I let the produce tell me what to make.”

Michael Luth, Chef de Cuisine of Robert's Pizza and Dough Company in Chicago, Illinois