Posted by Stefanie Gans, Dining Editor / Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
“People think Asian, and they think cheap,” says Noom Sermbhongse.
As the owner of Aiyara Thai Restaurant in Leesburg, Sermbhongse breaks down eggs to the penny. When he calls upon his wholesaler, he can find a dozen factory-produced eggs for $1. When he works with local farms—where chickens graze on grass—it’s $4. That’s a 400-percent increase, Sermbhongse quickly points out.
With one egg required for pad Thai, he spends about 10 cents or 40 cents, which may not seem like a big difference to someone who pays $10 in tolls just to ride 267 to Leesburg, but in an industry with a brutally slim profit margin, pennies count.
Local eggs are worth it to Sermbhongse. And that’s exactly what Miriam Nasuti is counting on.
It happened instantaneously for Nasuti. One day she was a marketing professional, trying to feed healthy foods to her family, and the next, she dramatically shifted where she bought food.
“Food Inc.,” the 2008 documentary that shed the ugly morning light on the corrupt food system in this country, started the transformation. “We watched the movie, and [the] next day it changed,” she remembers thinking. She sat her family down to watch with her and, “I had tears in my eyes.”
She didn’t just start shopping at the farmers market either; she now buys cow shares. This new calling didn’t stop in her home. She soon got to know local farmers and the agricultural business in Loudoun County and wondered how to better promote the area’s foods.
With an extensive background in event planning, fundraising and public relations, she transformed almost two dozen restaurants into live theater for the local food moment. For 11 days, participating restaurants developed menus where at least 70 percent of the ingredients came from Loudoun farms, wineries and distilleries.
It took Nasuit eight months to comb together the resources for Farm to Fork Loudoun. She cold-called 35 chefs with the idea: Pay a $500 participation fee, spend time developing relationships with local farmers, develop new menu items and budget for higher food costs. Twenty-one chefs said yes.
This is the second year for Farm to Fork Loudoun, and 22 restaurants will specifically offer Loudoun’s meat and produce from July 26 through Aug. 5 for the initiative.
READ MORE: [Dinner as Theater: Local Stars in Loudoun]
Tags: Aiyara Thai Restaurant, Farm to Fork Loudoun, farm-to-fork, Gut Check, Kanchsna Sermbhongse, Kevin Grove, King Pinz, leesburg, Loudoun County, Lovettsville, Miriam Nasuti, Noom Sermbhongse, Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Magazine, NoVA, Quarter Branch Farm, Shane Weese, Stefanie Gans