The next time you take a step into what claims to be a "farm-to-table" restaurant, take a step back. Laura Reiley, a food critic for the Tampa Bay Times recently took a dive into the stories behind some nearby local eateries boasting fish fresh from the sea and produce straight from the tree. While that may be true in some sense, her findings in the small print made one thing clear: They weren't referencing the Gulf Ocean or anywhere in Florida, that's for sure.
In her story for the Tampa Bay Times, Reily puts a few restaurants to the test and digs for the truth in the tableside spiels. Mentions of poultry, seafood, and produce sourced within a couple hundred miles turns out to be products from different states entirely. One restaurateur's point is valid: "Local Florida proteins are not quality." But why the hype?
Through the entirety of her prose, Reily uncovered truths from restaurants she previously reviewed—many that admittedly fooled her into four-star accolades the first time around. Her process, in her words: "Of 239 restaurants still in business, 54 were making claims about the provenance of their ingredients. For fish claims that seemed suspicious, I kept zip-top baggies in my purse and tucked away samples. The had them DNA tested by scientists at the University of South Florida. I called producers and vendors. I visited farms."
For a restaurant trend that has been so widely received in all parts of the world, this is an intriguing dive for anyone who frequents—or even lives near—a restaurant shouting "farm-to-table" status. To read all of Reiley's findings, read the full story here.
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.