Ed Chiles is turning his island restaurants into localvore foodie destinations by land and sea through a waste not, want not philosophy.
"The localvore movement is the most important movement I've seen in my industry in the 34 years I've been in business," Chiles says inside his beach front headquarters for The Chiles Group in Anna Maria. "It's the most positive. It's the most important from an economic development standpoint, and from an environmental standpoint."
The localvore movement is a growing trend for diners as more people want to know where their food is coming from, how far it's traveling, how it was grown or harvested and if it was genetically modified. "It provides better quality for our guests. You got to figure out how to do that," Chiles said. "Sometimes you have to charge a little bit more. You've got to be more efficient in how you use it. Getting further integrated into it is something we're committed to."
For Chiles, owner Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista Dockside restaurants, it's a bit of a two if by land and one if by sea invasion into the localvore movement.
Today's edition will take a look at Chile's efforts to extend his roots into farming. He has signed a long-term lease with Florida West Coast Resource Conservation & Development to restart and run Gamble Creek Farm in Parrish for vegetables and his bottarga operation in partnership with Seth Cripe, an Anna Maria Island native and owner of LOLA Wines in Napa Valley. Chiles also has a 40 percent stake in 3 Boys Farm in Ruskin where Robert Turnello operates the first USDA certified organic hydroponic farm in the United States, providing Chiles' restaurants with fresh organic greens, heirloom tomatoes and more.
Chiles is also taking the discarded fish from fisherman and his restaurants to have fish-based compost to help the crops grow at Gamble Creek Farm, restarting the cycle between his endeavors.
Monday's story will take the journey out to sea. In the waters, Chiles is finding inventive ways to use cuts of fish not traditionally used to create unique dishes like red snapper collar. The restaurants have long been dedicated to fresh local seafood, but this venture is taking it further. Chiles is building a business around a Mediterranean delicacy called bottarga cured and sun-dried from Gray Stripe Mullet roe. With Cripe leading the way, the two want to break the cycle of having local roe shipped to Asia for $6 to $15 a pound to be prepared and resold locally at more than $100 a pound.