During this pandemic of 2020, buying locally-grown and produced food can be a gateway to a stronger local economy. Several years ago, The Local Dish interviewed Rogue Valley restaurateur, Chris Dennett, owner of Elements Tapas Bar, during which he shared the vision behind his popular Medford restaurant and why local ingredients matter. His comments from that interview are quite apropos to the time so we are bringing forward the text of his inspiring thoughts.
“What makes good tapas, and probably what makes good food in general, is just having good quality product. But when you take quality product and don’t try to overkill it by putting too many things into it, but prepare it simply with three or four things, then I think it’s really the best.
We use local product for two reasons: one, because we love being supportive of local. That’s really important to us. That’s why even with our wine list, we only do Spanish and local. That’s a real focus for us. Secondly, it just tastes better.
I could speak of two different salads in which we use almost entirely local products. The house salad: all the microgreens, the mesclun greens, we get all the arugula, radicchio, baby spinach, watercress and everything we put into that. All the greens are all available from Rogue Valley farmers. My chef actually carries personal relationships with some of the farmers. The beet salad, for example, is another really popular salad and that’s basically roasted beets served with greens and local chevré.
We have about 35 different Southern Oregon wines that we serve. There is something unique about how Spain does things and it’s kind of how we started to do it here, as more of a social concept. It’s more of a way of life rather than a particular cuisine.
And so, what you would do with that particular cuisine is you would have great Spanish flavors, and it was always really based on what was local and fresh. There’s this really beautiful crossover like Southern Oregon product works really well with Spanish wine and Spanish style tapas work really well with Southern Oregon wines. We really don’t waste much food because people don’t order too much. They order to when they’re full.
So while an entire economy can get frustrated, let’s say, or depressed or something, by being supportive of local, by still getting things locally we can actually have a stronger local economy than we can nationally and that’s a really important point, especially now.”
Note: Although Elements Tapas Bar is temporarily closed for dining service, customers can provide support by purchasing gift certificates. Call their main number and leave a message.
Top image: Chris Dennett (L) and Chef Juan Manuel (R); Photo courtesy Elements Tapas Bar