Charlotte’s Stoke finds new ways to use local produce

by | Feb 24, 2020

Tim Groody, executive chef at Stoke

Even in the heart of North Carolina’s biggest city, it’s not hard to find farm-fresh food grown right here at home.

That’s the idea behind Stoke, a Charlotte restaurant located in the Marriott City Center at 100 W. Trade St. Stoke features a menu full of seasonal dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, which Executive Chef Tim Groody said is one of the restaurant’s main features.

“We buy a lot of local product, seasonal product,” he said. “Our menu changes from time to time depending on what’s available, and we source from all over the state.”

Groody, a native of Long Island, New York, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked and studied in kitchens across the country. Prior to joining Stoke, Groody and his wife Melanie owned and operated Fork, a restaurant near Lake Norman which specialized in serving the same kind of locally sourced products that Stoke uses.

Spending a lot of time at the Charlotte Farmer’s Market is not a new concept for Groody. He is credited as one of the first local chefs in Charlotte to form personal relationships with local farmers, which allowed him to source locally at a time when most restaurants in the area did not do so.

“I have made a lot of friends who are farmers just by going to the market and seeing them all the time,” he said. “The biggest benefit is that you just know the quality of your food, you know where your food is coming from and you can make sure you’re getting exactly what you need.”

Sourcing ingredients locally has become more and more popular as consumers grow increasingly aware of what is in their food and where it comes from. On top of that, chefs can often save money by working with local growers while also supporting small farmers by providing a direct market.

Sometimes, the personal relationships formed through local sourcing can lead to unique menu options that would not otherwise be available, Groody said.

“The biggest benefit is that you just know the quality of your food, you know where your food is coming from and you can make sure you’re getting exactly what you need.”

Tim Groody, Executive Chef at Stoke

Fittingly for National Sweet Potato month, one such instance involved the fingerling-size sweet potatoes that a farmer friend of Groody’s needed to find a use for.

“We have two sweet potato dishes – one is these small sweet potato fingerlings where we use the leftover sweet potatoes from a farmer in the area,” Groody said. “Talking to him one day, he told me that he had these leftovers that normally he might just eat himself, and so we take those and use them for sides on our menu.”

This kind of unique agreement illustrates why chefs and local farmers working together can be a valuable move for both parties. By building personal relationships with local farmers, chefs can find niche products like the smaller-size sweet potatoes Groody is now using, while farmers may be able to make use of and get equity from products that would otherwise not be fit for sale.

Stoke’s menu also includes a sweet potato puree with scallops, a variety of coastal fish and other seafood, and several other meat and produce options. Groody applies the same “see a need, fill a need” attitude that resulted in the sweet potato side to the menu at large.

“At the Marriott City Center, a lot of our guests stay there frequently. Many of them live there or are there five days a week, and so they eat with us two or three time a week,” Groody said. “We encourage them to give us feedback, to tell us what we’re doing well and what they would like to see changed.”

To that end, Groody hopes to expand the menu at Stoke in 2020. That will come mainly in the form of new small plates, he said, which would complement items such as deviled eggs, pretzel brioche, grilled shrimp and several others.

Past just Stoke, Groody invited guests to come see what else the Marriott City Center has to offer. The hotel finished a multi-million dollar renovation project in 2016, and Stoke owes its existence to the complete revamping of the main lobby where the restaurant now resides.

The menu at Stoke changes with the seasons, so it’s always a good idea to take a look before you arrive to plan out your evening. Head over to Stoke’s website to view the menu, make a reservation or even set up an event in Stoke’s private dining room.