Today on the blog we meet Chef Craig Howard, Owner of Howard’s Organic Fare and Vegetable Patch, a one-of-a-kind market in Kansas City, Mo. Craig is coming to Powell Gardens on Sunday, September 15, as part of the Garden Chef Series. He will demonstrate a recipe featuring late-summer produce grown in the Heartland Harvest Garden.
Howard’s Organic Fare and Vegetable Patch, which is located at 900 E. 21st Street in Kansas City, is open to members 24/7. Every Thursday from 3-7 p.m., Craig hosts an open house for anyone who wants to see the shop. (He’s happy to arrange individual meetings for those needing a different time.)
You can catch him every Friday night at Badseed Farmers Market selling sandwiches, soups and salads. Craig is also available to do catering and private dinners.
Q. What inspired you to become a chef?
I believe my love for eating inspired me at a very young age to start to assemble food together and eventually start cooking. Both of my parents are really good cooks as well, so that helped a lot. I loved watching them cook. As long as I can remember I was sneaking into the kitchen at night and crawling up the cabinets to raid the pantry. Food is the one thing that you need to survive that can also bring you the greatest pleasures.
Q. Tell us about your food philosophy and what led you to open the market.
My food philosophy is to keep it as local as possible. There are a hundred reasons why local food is important. But the few I focus on are: it’s better for the local economy, it’s more environmentally friendly, it usually tastes better because of the care put into growing and, quite simply, it’s just more fun. I love buying veggies from a local farmer and hearing about where it came from. Farmers are usually excellent storytellers!
I opened Howard’s to help bring local food more into the everyday shopping experience for the consumer. Farmers markets are great but going to them doesn’t always fit into everyone’s schedule. I want my customers to have access to local food all the time. The 24/7 model does just that!
I trimmed a lot of the costs that are associated with a typical grocery store, and that saved money goes directly back to the customer, grower and producer. The shop spends at least 90 percent of its purchasing dollars with local growers, producers and companies, allowing most of the money to keep supporting our local economy.
Q. How many members do you have now, and are you taking new members?
Currently, Howard’s has 115 memberships. I have seen a nice, steady growth since I opened, which has been great. We’re definitely taking new members.
Q. What are you growing in your gardens this year? Any favorites?
I am growing all of the usual summer veggies, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. For fall, I have a few different varieties of beans, lettuce, arugula, beets and carrots just to name a few. I really love growing salad greens and cherry tomatoes. I think it has to do with how immediately delicious they are. During summer I can go pick a few tomatoes, clip a few greens and splash a little olive oil and vinegar on everything for a satisfying meal.
Q. What seasonal ingredients are you most looking forward to cooking with this fall?
I’m really looking forward to sweet potatoes this year, and I plan to buy an abundance of them from local farmers. I preserve sweet potatoes and use them throughout the year. I’m actually just running out of my stock from last year, which I made into sweet potato puree!
I use the puree to make sweet potato biscuits for various caterings and events throughout the year. They are a huge hit, and some would say my signature item. On Friday nights at Badseed Farmers’ Market, you will find me serving up Sweet Potato Biscuit Sandwiches with Kansas Citian bacon, Skyview Farm cheese, pickled veggies, basil mayo and microgreens. I make everything from scratch and serve them with soup or salad and Little Freshie sodas. The biscuits make a great sandwich but I’ll have to substitute something else until the new sweet potatoes come in. I’m thinking Dutch Crunch bread would be a tasty swap. I’m excited to make them so I can dig in!
Don’t miss Craig Howard’s cooking demo on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 2 p.m. in the Missouri Barn! The demo is included with regular Garden admission.