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From soil to plate, minus the chemicals
Local restaurant, farm team up to provide fresh, homegrown ingredients
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Nicholas St. Clair, chef and owner of Antebellum Restaurant in Flowery Branch, uses locally grown produce in his Southern cuisine. - photo by Tom Reed

Cooking with farm fresh ingredients isn’t exactly a new idea. People have doing it for centuries.

Yet in recent years, modern convenience has made the practice of cooking with seasonal vegetables a thing of the past.

But the recent farm-to-table trend is bringing the freshness of farm-grown, seasonal vegetables back into eateries.

Antebellum, a fine-dining restaurant in Flowery Branch, uses farm grown local produce to create its Southern cuisine.

The restaurant opened six months ago at 5510 Church St., and has received a lot of favorable feedback.

It is listed as No. 1 with Open Table and has five stars on Yelp and Urban Spoon, restaurant review websites.

Nicholas St. Clair, chef and owner of Antebellum, credits the restaurant’s success to the food’s quality and overall atmosphere.

St. Clair said he spends a lot of time studying to keep his restaurant and menu as enticing as possible.

“My hope is that (guests) experience a locally owned restaurant,” St. Clair said. “That they see the passion we’ve put into this and they have one of the best meals of their lives.”

One of the ways he’s able to create such delicious Southern dishes is by enlisting the help of a local farmer. More than half of the produce used in the dishes comes from Finch Creek Farms in Winder.

Using locally grown ingredients in his dishes has a number of benefits. On the business side of things, St. Clair said he uses them to save money because they have a longer shelf life.

“But it’s definitely not just the cost,” St. Clair said. “It’s really about ingredients. Execution equals great food. So you don’t have pristine ingredients, there’s only so much you can do. But if you have pristine ingredients and you can execute right, then you can produce world-class food.”

Cass Fraunfelder, farmer at Finch Creek Farms, said he doesn’t believe people deserve to eat the chemicals and pesticides many farmers use on their produce.

“I grow natural vegetables,” Fraunfelder said. “I put seeds in the ground. There’s bugs and worms and all kinds of stuff out there. But what there isn’t in our soil is chemicals.”

The seeds he plants are all certified organic or heirloom seeds.

A few months ago, St. Clair toured the farm with Fraunfelder.

“We were eating radishes right out of the ground,” St. Clair said, laughing. “I really wished I’d had a bottle of vinaigrette. I mean, you don’t know what that tastes like until you have it. So if you’re able to put that on a plate, it just gives you a huge advantage over your competition.”

Fraunfelder said it’s been his lifelong dream to be a vegetable farmer. He said being able to feed people produce he grew naturally makes him feel good.

One evening, he and his family were eating dinner at the restaurant. As they ordered their salads, Fraunfelder said he noticed another family at a nearby table start to eat their own salads.

“They’re all starting to much on the greens and it was totally quiet,” Fraunfelder said. “It was just constant eating. The younger man said it first; he said, ‘It doesn’t taste like salad. This is good.’ It made me feel really good because I saw firsthand the response of what I’m growing at the farm.”

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