Chef Stephen Williams opened Bouquet Restaurant in Northern Kentucky in 2007 with a commitment to sustainability and farm-to-table dining. During the growing season, Williams estimates 90% of products are sourced locally – leading to a menu that sometimes changes multiple times a week. Williams stockpiles fresh ingredients while they’re in season and pickles, ferments, cans and preserves as much as possible. He also uses scrap meat to make sausage, using koji to expedite the curing process.
For the sausage, the kitchen team saves scrap meat, trimmings and whole muscles — vacuum packing and freezing until they have enough saved up. They use koji, also known as aspergillus oryzae — a fungus used in Japan for things like soy sauce, fermented bean paste and sake — to cure. “What might have taken 30-60 days before, can now be done in a week — all with scraps,” Williams said. “The koji also helps us out with searing and flavor enhancement. Our Maple Leaf Farm duck is coated with koji a day before we need it. This cuts the searing and fat rendering time in half because time is money.”
Williams said they also buy more than the restaurant needs during peak season on all vegetables and fruits. “Especially if the farmers are trying to move some B-grade or ‘ugly’ produce,” he said. “We’ll then jar, pickled, puree, jam, dehydrate and or vacuum the produce to save for the winter months. Always have lots of apple butter and stew tomatoes in January.”
One thing worth noting is that fermentation rules vary by health department. Bouquet Restaurant completed their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (frequently called the HACCP) through the FDA for fermentation so they’re fermentation is legal with the health department. Williams recommends checking with local health departments to make sure restauranteurs don’t run into any issues down the road.
“Fermenting opened up a whole new world of options and flavors,” Williams said. “The variations on kimchi and sauerkraut alone have added a whole new dimension to our pantry. Most of all are done with vegetable scraps.”