Business owners, chefs talk pandemic challenges, value of buying local products

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Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles speaks to Lexington business owners and chefs in the Lexington area earlier today as part of his 'Restaurant Roundtable' tour. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo).
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles met with several Lexington small business owners and chefs Tuesday for the first stop in his “Restaurant Roundtables” series to thank Kentucky small business owners and chefs for sourcing food from Kentucky farms and hear firsthand about the challenges they faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In addition to beautiful horse farms, Lexington is also a food destination for Kentucky residents and visitors to our commonwealth. Like many places, the coronavirus pandemic negatively affected Lexington’s hospitality industry,” Quarles said. “Across the state, this industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic. Despite those challenges, our Kentucky Proud Buy Local restaurants continued to support local farmers. These Restaurant Roundtables are one way I can personally thank them for being part of the farm economy and hear directly from these small businesses owners about the lingering challenges they are continuing to face when it comes to our supply chain and labor issues.”
“Today’s Restaurant Roundtable with Commissioner Quarles was a great opportunity to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing Kentucky’s restaurant industry,” said Ouita Michel, a Kentucky restaurateur and owner of the Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants. “We appreciate the opportunity to talk about the importance of the Kentucky Proud brand and to build enthusiasm as we get through the pandemic.”
Future Restaurant Roundtable stops will be in Louisville, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and London, Kentucky. Each roundtable will follow recommended Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing.
“Attending the roundtable this morning and listening with Commissioner Quarles to restaurateurs talk about their challenges really highlights the relationships and partnerships we need with the KDA, farmer, and connectors all over Kentucky,” said Stacy Roof, president and CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association. “As Kentucky restaurants prepare to fully reopen, these connections will remain invaluable. We thank the Commissioner for prioritizing our local restaurants, cornerstones in each of their communities.”
Those taking place in the forum are participants in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Kentucky Proud Buy Local program for restaurants, caterers, schools, and other food service participants that source and support local farms. Offered by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, this program rewards participants for enhancing their menus with locally-sourced Kentucky Proud farm ingredients. The Buy Local program is funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund.
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