By Marilen Fontanilla
“Everyone is going local – super local. The love for local food mean rising customer interest in ‘everything from house-purified water to regional seafood to locally manufactured products like beers and liquors’.”The 10 Biggest Restaurant Trends for 2015, Entrepreneur Magazine
Earth Kitchen exemplifies this trend on a micro level that encompasses the farm-to-fork model. It is a partnership project of Hizon’s Catering, Got Heart Foundation, Chef David Hizon and Chef JR Trani that works with Got Heart Farms in Tarlac and other marginalized indigenous, partner communities by offering healthy, organic and local dishes. The carefully conceived menu by Chefs David Hizon and JR Trani showcases the produce in distinctive ways that highlights locally sourced vegetables, rice, meat and other products. Co-owner Joseph Hizon describes Earth Kitchen as “healthy, local, sustainable – our concept revolves around those.”
Earth Kitchen opened its first branch in White Plains in 2013, followed by a second branch in Bonifacio Global City this year. It stemmed from the owners’ desire to support the livelihood of the farmers under co-owner Melissa Yeung-Yap’s Got Heart Foundation. Joseph explained that, “one of the advocacies of Got Heart is natural farming. When you’re doing organic farming, you’re self-reliant, you make your own fertilizers. The problem was that the farmers don’t know how to sell their crops.”
It is through Earth Kitchen that a market with a steady clientele provided this opportunity for the farmers by buying produce from the Got Heart Organic Farms at a fair market price. The Got Heart Shops located at Earth Kitchen branches help partner communities and entrepreneurs reach a wider customer base. In this sense, Earth Kitchen is an advocacy in itself, grounded in its mission to serve through its unique initiatives.
Earth Kitchen’s owners represent the new breed of restaurateurs who have carefully thought about their concept from the ingredients to the plate. Even the name is reflective of this concern. “It’s because we wanted a restaurant that did not cover up the taste of ingredients. We rely on good ingredients for the dishes to taste good. So it’s like the Earth is the kitchen,” Joseph explained.
“Our menu is not cuisine-specific, we had to work with what the farmers could provide us. It also reflects the personality and preferences of the chefs and owners. The options are pretty safe, since there is something for everyone,” Joseph elaborated. The chef takes an open approach to using local ingredients. The key word is open, meaning he approaches the local ingredients in a different way. “We wanted a menu that was healthy but we didn’t want it to be vegetarian, although we have vegetarian options and very few vegan. We definitely use a lot of vegetables. We make everything from scratch, from the pasta to the ice cream to the tortillas.”
Some of Earth Kitchen’s constant bestsellers include their Beef Kebab, Shrimp Spring Rolls, Watermelon and Rocket Salad, and the Bulgogi Soft Taco. Aside from these, their other dishes with a big following would be the Mushroom Ravioli, Uni Negra and Goat Cheese Ice Cream.
Beyond the food, Earth Kitchen represents new ways that restaurateurs can affect lives and effect changes in their sphere of influence. In the eyes of the owners, this defines their purpose and their being. “ I feel that it’s our purpose that is unique. Earth Kitchen is really part of Got Heart Foundation. It is not even a business but an outreach program. The better the restaurant does, the better for the farmers. Whatever the restaurant makes goes back to the foundation and is used in educating farmers and funding the farms.”