Northeast Ohio chefs, from left, Ron Quaranta, Jr., Kenneth Haidaris, Salvatore Coppola, Vernon Cesta, Nick  Frankos, Leo DelGarbino

Cooking Up Collaboration

A partnership in northeast Ohio is inviting restaurant guests to think about the chef who prepared their food, the farmer who grew it and how sitting down to a meal can support the local community.

The collaboration has been a win-win for The Valley Classics, a group of northeast Ohio restaurants, and the Trumbull County Farm Bureau.

“The Farm Bureau has given us some different avenues to go out and get local produce and local meats around the area,” said Vernon Cesta, chef at Vernon’s Cafe. “It’s a growing network and as we keep going, it is only going to get larger.”

For Ken Haidaris, chef at Sunrise Inn, it’s a partnership that has helped him experience the value of local products.

“It is kind of cool to see someone who grew your food come in and eat. It shows how all of this recycles the money in our local economy, which is better than sending it out of state,” he said.

To promote their work, a television commercial showcased Valley Classics chefs visiting the farms of several local growers who provide the restaurants with food.

“It seems to have worked out well. The commercial got a lot of play and a lot of people we deal with are happy that we support the local farmers and knowing they are getting fresh product whenever we can do it,” Cesta said.

All of the Valley Classics’ restaurants have deep roots in their communities—some of them are third generation businesses—a value shared by Trumbull County Farm Bureau. County Farm Bureaus across Ohio have a history of working to improve agriculture and rural communities and a mission to forge a partnership between farmers and consumers.

Farmer, garden center owner and Trumbull County Farm Bureau President Mark Bockelman said he enjoys keeping money circulating in the local economy, especially with this group of chefs.

“We were always friends but this relationship enhanced that friendship a little more, and now we can share business back and forth, which is a great thing for everyone,” he said.

And, of course, one of the most important parts of this partnership is good food.

“It’s fresh, it’s right here, it tastes better. We are proud to put it on our plates and serve our customers,” said chef Ron Quaranta, Jr. of Caffe Capri.

The groups are about two years into their partnership, and there are plans for future projects. Another commercial is in the early stages of production, and they are exploring potential collaboration through a farmers market.

“We are looking forward to working with the Farm Bureau for a very, very long time. It has been a really good partnership,” Quaranta said.

As the opening lines of the commercial ask: “This food tastes so great! How do you guys get it to taste so fresh?”

The reply: “Well it’s a little thing we like to call ‘farm-to-table’.”

And for this group, the phrase describes more than food. It’s about their community.

Restaurant Locations

Vernon’s Cafe
720 Youngstown-Warren Road
Niles, Ohio 44446

Sunrise Inn
510 East Market St.
Downtown Warren, Ohio

132 Niles-Cortland Rd. (Rt. 46)
Howland, Ohio

5205 Mahoning Ave.
Austintown, Ohio

Caffe Capri
8000 Market Street
Boardman, OH 44512

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Callie Wells 

Callie Wells is the director of digital communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.