South Charlotte

Tailor-made greens a hit at this restaurant

The Gallery Restaurant at the Ballantyne Hotel is committed to locally grown ingredients.

In the summertime, during the peak growing season, Chef David Moore says as much as 90 percent of the vegetables are locally grown.

But no matter what the season, customers will always find fresh microgreens, thanks to Kate Brun and Lucky Leaf Gardens in nearby Harrisburg.

Brun defines microgreens as vegetables and herbs at their first stage of growth, shortly after they sprout from seeds and just before they grow their first set of true leaves.

Lucky Leaf Gardens and the Gallery Restaurant boast a four-year relationship that’s growing stronger as the chefs continue to create new dishes and Brun continues to plant new greens.

“We had an opportunity to meet Kate a little over four years ago. We had been sourcing microgreens from out of state,” Moore said. “They were good, but we didn’t have as much input from the farmer. Kate was just starting out and she allowed us to customize our orders. If we were looking for an item, she would find the seed, grow it, and have it to us in two weeks.

“She can change her product as quickly as we change items on our menu. With a little communication we can do a complete flip, a total menu change, in as little as two weeks.”

Brun, a former realtor, started the business in 2010 when the economy was bad. She loved gardening and tried her hand at microgreens. Soon Lucky Leaf Gardens was off and running.

Lucky Leaf Gardens now delivers microgreens to restaurants from Ballantyne to Davidson, stocks their products at local Whole Foods and Healthy Home Markets, and uses several food brokers in the area who distribute the greens to other parts of North Carolina and several other states.

“Everything we grow is custom grown. We grow based on the date the customer needs the item, and we can even clip it to their preferred length when it comes time to harvest,” Brun said.

Lots of restaurants buy locally when they can, but Brun said the Gallery Restaurant goes above and beyond to find their food close to home.

“They are fantastic, not just for us, but for the agricultural region in general. They really go the extra mile to find everything they are looking for close to home,” Brun said.

Moore said locally produced food just makes sense. Using nearby suppliers has a huge impact on shipping fuel and surcharges, and getting food fresh from the farm extends its shelf life and what can be done with it.

“It’s wonderful that Kate is right out our backdoor,” Moore said. “Eighty percent of the time, her microgreens have been harvested the same day they are delivered.”

Brun said it’s a win-win proposition that makes everybody’s job more enjoyable.

“We’re excited about what we have, and they are excited about getting it,” Brun said. “It’s really neat when a chef is so pleased to get what you have grown. It makes everybody happy and eager to go to work each day.”