As noted by the name of the restaurant that Deveri Gifford co-owns, Brooklyn Street Local reigns supreme on local. By spending a day with Deveri, I got to see first-hand the mind behind a menu that changes daily to incorporate whatever ingredients are available. We started by shopping for produce at Eastern Market, the largest farmers market in the United States. The Market runs on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesdays during the summer months. Saturday is the largest, most bustling day, with over 225 market vendors showing up to sell. Although there is the most variety on Saturdays, Deveri prefers the Tuesday market. It is easier for her to make her way through and buy exactly what she needs without getting bogged down by extraneous visitors. She is able to weave her way through the crowded sheds with ease, pulling her small cart behind her, reaching all the vendors that she needs to in order to make it through the rest of the week at Brooklyn Street Local.
She first stops by Holtz Farms to introduce me to Norm and pick up her spinach and potatoes. Norm had set aside a large bag of spinach for her that he hands over from behind his table. Deveri buys his potatoes and stores them to use year round. She then makes her way to the table of Keep Growing Detroit, a farm that grows in the city of Detroit. She picks up their last fennel and onion of the day. While purchasing, she is brainstorming what she will use the fennel for. “It will probably go in an omelet or a soup,” Deveri says. This style of menu, in which the items sold are planned around the produce available instead of buying produce to make specific dishes, is one thing that makes Brooklyn Street Local unique.
The restaurant, which is open Tuesday-Sunday, has different omelets, quiches, and soups on its menu every day of the week. They are always seasonal and in limited quantities. There are one to three quiches on the menu that change daily. Deveri likes to use ingredients that people may not necessarily be familiar with. “Last week, we did a bok choy omelet, which sold really well,” she said of a less-than-usual menu offering. By serving food with ingredients that people are not familiar with, she can show people the vast variety of good food out there. This helps when sourcing locally, due to the seasonality of common ingredients. Brooklyn Street does not have all ingredients at all times because they are not in season. Sometimes, customers will question why there is not something specific on the menu, and Deveri will explain that tomatoes or spinach or peppers are not in season at the moment. By doing this, the restaurant is not only serving delicious food, but becoming a channel for education about growing and where your food is coming from.
All in all, we only spent around 25 minutes at Eastern Market, in which Deveri was able to buy local spinach, potatoes, fennel, onions, blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes. The fruit will be used that week in scones. After the Market, we went back to the restaurant to do some preparation for the next day. As we walked back into the long and thin kitchen space, Deveri met her staff with friendly greetings, asking them how their days had been before flying into action. She washed kale from Keep Growing Detroit, from which Brooklyn Street Local gets 12 pounds per week. The farm is less than one-half mile from the restaurant, which is helpful if they ever need more in a pinch.
Deveri and Brooklyn Street Local embody positive purchasing by thinking about not only the great taste of locally grown produce, but also about the effects the restaurant bears on the earth and its customers. According to Deveri, "Good food is food that is grown in a sustainable way, is healthy, is environmentally sustainable, the workers are treated well, the animals that you eat are treated well. It is contributing positively to the greater community that in which it was grown or produced in."
In terms of being environmentally sustainable, local farms are often smaller than industrial ones and have a more diverse crop offering, which is a key component to healthy soil. The farms that Brooklyn Street Local source from use less chemicals and pesticides than huge farms around the country. And on a more personal level, Deveri and her staff have relationships with the farmers that they buy from. These types of long-lasting connections, the type that know your order before you place it, are not made with big brand farms. Local goes beyond the farm, but to the restaurant's employees. "We want to stay within the Detroit economy as much as we can. We prioritize hiring staff from Detroit, again to just keep the money local and keep supporting the local economy, and to support the people who live here as well and people who are engaged with the city," Deveri said.
The triple - bottom line principles all tie together, and they can all be enhanced by buying local. As put by Deveri, "Food is one of the most interconnected things in the world. We all eat. We are all eaters. It connects every single one of us, and it is connected to every single aspect of our life."