Farm-to-Table Trailblazer Bradford Heap Committed to Sourcing Sustainably at SALT Bistro
As a young chef, Bradford Heap trained at The Culinary Institute before cooking at French restaurants in California, including Chateau Souverain where he mentored under James Beard Award winner Gary Danko. The classically trained chef then set his sights on studying with chefs in Europe. So Bradford saved up to go abroad and found opportunities to train at Michelin-rated restaurants in France, Italy, and Monaco. That’s where he first discovered the delicious simplicity of building a menu around the freshest, produce offered at the markets each day.
“Before I went to France and Italy and cooked, I had no idea about seasonal cuisine, like your average American,” Bradford says.
“In Europe, it’s a market-driven menu and the idea is to go to the market, see what’s available, and then write your menu based on that.”
In the mid-90s, he brought this rustic cuisine from the French and Italian countryside to his hometown of Boulder. First he worked in the kitchens of the Pearl Street Inn then Full Moon Grill and Chautauqua Dining Hall. Bradford’s farm-to-table vision truly came together when he opened Colterra Food and Wine in Niwot in 2005. He grew organic vegetables and herbs for seasonal dishes or sourced them from local farms. He partnered with Colorado ranches to procure humanely raised meats and dairy foods free of hormones and antibiotics. This concept was considered pioneering in the early 2000s.
Then in 2009, he opened SALT, a more casual bistro to make farm-to-table more accessible. “I wanted to make a place that people knew they could come from all walks of life and there wasn’t going to be any socioeconomic division with the prices on the menu,” Bradford says. “It’s all well and good if you’re going to go save the world, but if people don’t come in or it’s too expensive, then what’s the point?”
SALT the Bistro opened in a downtown location that had been the home of Tom’s Tavern. Bradford honored this institution by keeping Tom’s name on the side of the building and the tavern’s famous burger on the menu. But Bradford’s burger is made from local, grass-finished beef from humanely raised cattle, never given GMO feed.
“I don’t believe in supporting non-sustainable food systems that are bankrupting the farmers, and the animal inhumanity is really hard for me to get behind. I would rather eat beans and rice instead of factory-farmed meat,” Bradford says passionately. “The food system is completely broken, and I’m out here with a few other chefs, trying to do the right thing and show that it can be done.”
Bradford partnered with FoodMaven to help fix the food system and achieve next-level sustainability in his restaurants. Because he creates his menu based on what’s available. He likes working with FoodMaven to take advantage of an abundance of something like organic cauliflower for his plant-based menu options. Even better: It allows Bradford to reduce his food cost.
“I really like working with FoodMaven and trying to do the very best I can to run a sustainable restaurant, which is really my mission,” Bradford adds. “Sometimes grocery stores overorder, so if [FoodMaven] is bringing in the type of quality of food that I like to use and they’re long on something, I can take advantage of that, thereby reducing food waste, which for me is huge.”