For episode 15 of Tent Talk, we had the pleasure of speaking with Mike Reidy, Chef De Cuisine at Ironside Fish & Oyster in Little Italy, San Diego. In our interview, Chef Mike gushed about his love for farmers’ markets, he clued us in on a day in the life of a busy chef, and explained how chefs can make connections with local farmers. In this episode you’ll learn why Chef Mike earned the nickname “Farmers Market”!
If you love to learn, learn to love the market
Before becoming Chef De Cuisine at Ironside Fish & Oyster, Mike worked at Mélisse in Santa Monica and Charcoal Venice with the two Michelin-starred LA chef Josiah Citrin. While earning his chops in Santa Monica, Mike became a regular at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, which is known for fostering strong relationships with the local chef community.
Mike spent a lot of time wandering through the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market looking for new exciting ingredients and getting to know the farmers that grew them. He developed a great appreciation for the opportunity to taste, smell, see and touch the fresh produce that the farmers’ market has to offer. “That’s the cool think about farmers’ markets that I think a lot of chefs don’t realize. If you go and dig, you can find some really cool stuff,” says Mike.
In addition to discovering ingredients he’d never seen before, Mike also picked up a wealth of knowledge at the farmers’ market. “I think when I was up there I learned like 50% at the market and 50% in the kitchen,” said Mike. By getting to know the farmers’ market vendors, Mike had the opportunity to learn about where and how the produce is grown. Farmers’ were also generous in sharing their cooking techniques and recipes.
Farmers’ markets: the ultimate guide for seasonal menus
At Ironside Fish & Oyster the menu shifts daily based on local catches and seasonal produce. This can be stressful, but also fun because Mike gets to work closely with fisherman and farmers. When developing daily menus, Mike says “it’s kinda up to whatever the weather and the season want to do with us.”
Instead of getting all your produce delivered, Mike suggests that chefs go out to farmers’ markets as much as they can: “I think in general as a community, we chefs need to get out there and see it and touch, feel and taste it.” And while he may only make it down to the dock on Saturdays, Mike constantly stays on track with what the fisherman are up to via text.
Mike sees the farmers’ market as an untapped resource for chefs to get their hands on fresh seasonal products. “I think it’s our job to go that step further instead of relying on someone else to bring it to you. Go dig for it. You might find something you’ve never seen before and you’re going to get a better understanding of the whole big picture of it.”
As a busy chef it can be tough to find time away from the kitchen, but Mike is convinced that developing relationships with your local food purveyors is important. When restaurants support local food producers, it not only helps the food producers, it also draws more attention to the restaurant. It’s a beautiful cycle that uplifts the local food industry as a whole. As they say, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Coincidentally that’s what the sign outside Ironside Fish & Oysters reads.
Where can I listen to Chef Mike’s full episode of Tent Talk?
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Do you have a farmers’ market question you’d like us to answer on air? Got an idea for a future episode topic? Is there someone you think we should interview? Please let us know!