Interview with The Loyalist
By: Michael Kuperman
The Loyalist, a casual New-American spot located at 177 N Ada St in the West Loop, along with its fine dining counterpart Smyth, have decided to do what no other restaurant in Chicago has done by sourcing almost the entirety of their produce from one single farm, appropriately named The Farm. Located outside of Bourbonnais, IL, The Farm is run by husband and wife duo Rebecca and Alan Papineau, with the help of their son Elliot.
With the exception of certain climate restrictive items like lemons or limes, an estimated 70% of all raw ingredients both Smyth and The Loyalist use on their menus comes from The Farm. As we get later into the summer that number will grow to about 90%.
Though it is a feat not every restaurant has the means to emulate, it is one many can draw inspiration from. When asked if it was restrictive or inspiring having a set list of ingredients to work with, Chef de Cuisine of The Loyalist, Mark Bolton simply responded “100% inspiring”. Chef Bolton regarded the experience of going to The Farm as “eye opening”, being able to pull something out of the ground, and have it on a guest’s plate later that evening.
Starting with produce that is already delicious, and doesn’t need much manipulation is of utmost importance to Chef Bolton when it comes to making great food. One dish currently on the menu at The Loyalist that embodies this philosophy is the dish composed of: Baby Red Beets roasted daily, Hearth-Grilled Strawberries, Sunflower Seeds, and Fresh Ricotta made with local Amish goats’ milk.
When trying something brand new there is an expected learning curve to be had. Every season starts the same however; the chefs sit down with the Papineaus and decide on a seed list, the list that will determine what gets planted and eventually end up on diner’s plates in the months to come. With an attention to herbs, flowers, and not all too common produce such as Aronia berries and Pineapple Sage, the bounty The Farm provides has grown in tandem with the popularity of both restaurants.
Approaching their one year anniversary, Smyth & The Loyalist, and their relationship with Rebecca and Alan is still in its infancy. A relationship that formed out of pure coincidence and a love of black walnuts, has now become the benchmark for produce procurement in the restaurant industry.
The success that has come from this relationship leads many to reflect on their own habits. As a restaurant, what are you doing to incorporate more sustainable practices into your business? Diners have shown they want locally sourced food that is not only good for them, but their communities. With food being easier to acquire, now more than ever, Smyth & The Loyalist are doing something that is so simple, yet forgotten all too often; reacquainting themselves, and guests alike to the process that is “farm-to-table”. While not every restaurant is capable of sowing seeds they will then harvest, Smyth & The Loyalist demonstrate maybe it truly is the thought that counts.