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Old June 9, 2015   #1
AZGardener
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Default Maters for restaurants

Hi guys- I know we touched on this on another thread but I was just told by one of the top local pizza restaurants (that always has a 1-2 hr wait) that if I grew more maters, he would buy them.

For those that don't know, this is part of my tomato growing dream. To have a farm and sell to local chefs/markets.

I'm on 1/2 acre but only have 6 raised beds. I could probably double that but would that even be enough?!! I have about 40 something heirloom/rare varieties and I could probably do 80 but again, not sure if that's even enough. I should ask how many lbs he goes through a day and perhaps that would give me a better idea of how many I should grow next season.

Any thoughts on this, would be appreciated!
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Old June 9, 2015   #2
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I had a guy years ago that told me him and his brother would buy every tomato I grew.
He owned a Italian deli and his brother owned a high end place in Austin.
Both of these guys were like old school Italians like you see on TV.
I didn't see the guy at the deli for 10 years and I walked in one day and he said.
"You $%&^ &^$% where have you been I have work for you and need tomatoes.

To get back to your question.
You can grow enough tomatoes to over run the place with tomatoes for a few days.
You have one garden and one restaurant.
You will flood the place with tomatoes and then you wont have any.
The place still needs tomatoes.
What the farmer needs to do is find a bunch of places to sell to or one middle man to sell to.
This middle man can then worry about selling the tomatoes.

This is how the canned Rotel tomato company came about.
They had too many tomatoes to sell and started canning them and then selling the canned tomatoes with peppers in them.

What does your restaurant do with the tomatoes?
Do they make their own sauce if so they will need a lot.

I doubt if they do though.

If I owned a restaurant I wouldn't buy limited local tomatoes to make sauce.
Here is why, my sauce needs to be the same from one batch to the other.
But I could advertize that the local tomato season is in and we have heirloom tomato sauce while the season lasts.

What I would do is buy local tomatoes to eat fresh in salads and advertize this as specials.

Just a few thoughts I am no expert.

Worth
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Old June 9, 2015   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZGardener View Post
Hi guys- I know we touched on this on another thread but I was just told by one of the top local pizza restaurants (that always has a 1-2 hr wait) that if I grew more maters, he would buy them.

For those that don't know, this is part of my tomato growing dream. To have a farm and sell to local chefs/markets.

I'm on 1/2 acre but only have 6 raised beds. I could probably double that but would that even be enough?!! I have about 40 something heirloom/rare varieties and I could probably do 80 but again, not sure if that's even enough. I should ask how many lbs he goes through a day and perhaps that would give me a better idea of how many I should grow next season.

Any thoughts on this, would be appreciated!
I sold to restaurants for several years, but first, I want to say that Worth has already asked some of the same questions I would have asked. But Ihave more.

The first thing you need to do is to meet with the owner and find out what he wants, not necessarily varieties that you have and he wouldn't care one bit if any of your varieties are rare. You call it a restaurant so shall I assume that it's sit down tables, other Italian entrees that are offered, a salad bar also?

Different varieties would be needed for sauce, as opposed to salads/salad bar, as opposed to toppings for pizzas, as opposed to any Italian entrees.

Are you doing this for money back? If not, try to work out payback in food vouchers, wine, whatever, as I did.

Make sure you discuss a delivery schedule, that's very important, b'c you can't pick tomatoes in the mud, inclement weather, etc.

I always made contact with retaurants the year before I'd start with them so that I could take with me the preceding summer a flat or two of fruits I could deliver and already knew how well they produced for me. So you might consider doing that this summer.

Let the owner make decisions.

Don't get mad if there are problems that crop up. I had one chef who only wanted delivery of German Red Strawberry fruits but I had only three plants of them out there and he was insistent and rude, so I cut him off and never dealt with him again.

Have you considered other options? One might be Farmer's Markets. I sold fruits at a large nursery that offered lots of great stuff, also had a small restaurant, also delivered plants to be sold to the public as well. I knew the owners very well, we worked together very well, but there are other considerations as well, such as who is going to remove fruits that start looking bad, how do you calculate fruit loss, what percentage of sales come back to you?

Lots to think about me thinks.

Carolyn
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Old June 10, 2015   #4
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AZGardener,

I too had that dream to sell my tomatoes to area markets and restaurants. So several years ago I started a small (very small!) farm where I grew mostly tomatoes and some summer squash and cucumbers.

And I encountered all of the issues that Worth and Carolyn pointed out.

I had around 300-400 tomato plants and when the season started, everything was great - I had plenty of tomatoes to sell at the farmers market and I supplied two deli's with as many tomatoes as they needed. But then summer and the season ended - and everyone still wanted more tomatoes, which I didn't have. I found out that most folks don't understand that there is a season for ripe tomatoes - now that grocery stores have produce year around (not great produce, but it's still there), I think that people expect us to be growing all year. And that's not possible even in Southern CA or AZ.

So, after getting a suggestion from a good friend here on TVille, I branched out and started growing microgreens. I can grow them year around (indoors in the winter months) and I have a steady crop to sell at markets and to restaurants. Growing tomatoes is still my favorite though, and this year I have about 130 tomato plants (fewer due to the CA drought conditions) and I'll still be selling them at the markets for the next few months. But then I'll go back to just microgreens.

So if you can follow your dream, go for it! But it's good that you're asking questions here first .
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Old June 10, 2015   #5
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A local pizza oven restaurant told my family they wanted heirloom tomatoes whenever they could get them.
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Old June 10, 2015   #6
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I'm trying my best to look at it from a restaurant owners point of view at lest the way I would have one.
I wouldn't want my costumers coming in one time and getting a product that was different the next time.

Charlie you have to came to this place I just discovered last month, their tomato sauce is amazing.
Later.
Well it seemed better the last time I was here.
I think the cherry pear and grape tomatoes would be one of the best ways to go.
A longer season and they go a long way in a restaurant on salads.

Worth
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Old June 10, 2015   #7
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Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
A local pizza oven restaurant told my family they wanted heirloom tomatoes whenever they could get them.
That's where the "While in season" side menu would come in handy.

This way your customers would be looking forward to it but not expecting it all of the time.

Worth
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Old June 10, 2015   #8
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Default Central Illinois tomatoes...

Arkansas tomatoes were well known for years...
Central/ Southren Illinois is now the place to grow...
The Best!"
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Old June 10, 2015   #9
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Hello All
I feel that I must jump in here.

I am a chef and I own a few wood-fired pizza restaurant and I am learning more every day about the "Maters"
Fornino.com

My sauce tomato has been the same source for the past 38 years. Italy San Marzano DOP
Consistency is the hallmark or any restaurant and of my product. What I do buy in fresh tomatoes mostly is cherries. I have used many farmers/growers in the past and I have asked for varieties that are easy to grow for that specific grower or if that grower is willing to grow items just for me.
Larger fruit I buy as it becomes available and I have always found that if I pay the asking price I get the best fruit.
As a chef I want you to charge me- But I would like you to deliver the best product available.
That's my two cents
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Old June 10, 2015   #10
AZGardener
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Wow I am very blown away at the great responses!! Thank you all in advance.

Worth-
This restaurant is an upscale pizza company. Everything is pricey but pretty amazing. He uses in season/local when he can. He's all about supporting the local farmer (which I think is so awesome!). He actually uses a farm out of CA that specifically grows tomatoes for his canned tomato sauce. So his needs from me would be specifically for fresh tomatoes making things like caprese, salads, etc. You said it exactly, he uses the fresh heirloom tomatoes for seasonal menus that change daily/weekly/seasonally.
Carolyn- I have only talked to the chef/owner over the net. Lol- yes I know but that's typical these days... The restaurant is more a gourmet pizza company vs classic Italian food. You might find a couple traditional Italian things on the menu but he's well known for his gourmet wood fired pizzas. No salad bar but a $10+ dinner salad that includes heirloom tomatoes, beautiful lettuces of all sizes and colors, and seriously the best in season veggies and fruit one can get.
I'm definitely thinking about all the varieties I have vs. what his needs are. I'm assuming the taste and the look (color/stripes/size) for slicing and many cherry types for salads but I need to confirm this. I probably will do this for money, as his restaurant is downtown (30+ mins away) and it would be nice to earn a penny or two for doing something that I love doing. In regards to doing other things... One day when I have a real tomato farm, I think I can do all these ventures like growing starts, doing markets, selling wholesale...etc. But until I do get my farm, I need to start somewhere. Making all the right contacts and laying all the right footwork so when I have my farm, I can run!! For fruit sales/fruit loss, I've never done this and really don't know where to start... I'm thinking you just sell by the lb like at a market and its up to the chef to manage their fruit--no?
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Old June 10, 2015   #11
Old chef
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AZGARDENER
There is a chef I know in your area that owns a pizzeria called Bianco. His name is Chris Bianco. He is one of the top pizza guys in the country. I am sure he would be interested in a quality product.
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Old June 10, 2015   #12
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Computer wouldn't let me go scroll up to see other posts to respond so here goes my second response:
LDX4: Yeah I totally understand what your saying. I think the regular chef just wants tomatoes regardless of time of year but when you start working with those who brag about using only local and in season produce, it changes the tune of things. I definitely get what your saying though and its hard to say sorry its 110 out now and my tomato plants all bit the dust- see ya next March!! Lol!! Growing tomatoes it totally a passionate hobby of mine and there isn't anything I'm more crazy about then, well my husband and my kids!

ColeRobbie- That's exactly it!! It makes a difference when you drape that beauty with sliced thick rainbow heirlooms Local, organic, with love- boom a 20 pizza!

Worth- That's exactly what I was thinking so working with that seasonal menu is key. Salad with yellow pears and red onions this week and salads with black cherrys, yellow sweet onions, etc next week. Boom!

PMCGrady- Well I'd have to argue with my maters on this one. I had such a great year this season....
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Old June 10, 2015   #13
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Old Chef- Thank you for the info!!
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Old June 11, 2015   #14
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Love Pizza Bianco! Fabulous food and they seem to have specials for what is really fresh right then. It was local asparagus last time I ate there which was in March - best asparagus ever!

That said, I'd be somewhat surprised if pizza places would really appreciate heirlooms and be willing to pay top dollar for them. They usually have such a high percentage of water/gel that they can be difficult to use in pizza and aren't as good in sauce as San Marzanos, in my opinion. That said, I think they are pretty fabulous if you cut them up, drain the juices really well and make on a homemade crust with fresh mozzarella and basil. Getting so hungry now!

I befriended a young successful farmer at our local farmer's market and he takes the approach of growing heirlooms and more rare/foodie type products only. This enables him to sell to the high end restaurants who are willing to pay top dollar for high quality products. He would not still be in farming but for this because there isn't a lot of money is most farming. But, when he can sell all the heirlooms he can sell for top dollar, that is a game changer. He does this with lots of heirloom foods and micro greens. The high end places will pay top $ for high quality, because they can charge enough to more than get their money back. Good luck.

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Old June 11, 2015   #15
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I think I might be the worlds most picky pizza person.
Austin Texas of all places has some of the best out of the way places to eat pizza.
You just have to know where to look.
And they sure as the devil aren't nation wide chains.
I want a wood fired brick oven so bad at my place I dont know what to do.
I found a website in Italy that gave me all of the information I need to build one.
And wouldn't you know it the place that makes the right fire bricks I need is 20 miles from my house.
For tomatoes I like to use sun dried tomatoes if and when I can.

Worth
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