Chef Jay Pierce and the Farmer’s Realm
@triadfoodiesChef Jay Pierce was extremely excited to return to Greensboro to take over the culinary team of the Marshall Free House and parent company Kick Ass Concepts last year. Sometimes having a vision to take something that might not be working and giving it a little nudge is just the thing that helps that vision take shape. And that’s just what has happened as the Marshall Free House makes way for Farmer’s Realm.MFH closed its doors after the evening service this past Sunday. It’s making way for Farmer’s Realm Kitchen and Provisions. The new restaurant will double down on its local sourcing ingredients, turning them into global creations. But it’s not just a restaurant. The new space will feature a small farmer’s market selling produce, dry goods and prepared foods made in house by Chef Pierce, Chef John Jones and the team. Pierce has always been one of the forerunners in the farm to table movement and this transition will only deepen his relationship with local food partners.MFH owner and real estate developer Marty Kotis will be using the next few weeks to make significant changes to the restaurant. MFH and its concept of a British gastropub just didn’t translate well to the common man, many people thinking it pricey or for special occasions. The new restaurant will be more approachable. And the market will be a huge feature and will replace the current beer bar that’s just to your right upon entry. It will also have its own entrance on the side where sister property RED Cinemas sits.Chef Pierce took us on an imaginary tour and showed us where the new refrigerated cases will be stocked with products including Homeland Creamery milk and Massey Creek eggs, but also some house curated cocktail mixes by Mixologist Mark Weddle.“It will be all the things in season that we buy,” Pierce said. “You can buy from the same farmers, artisans and purveyors that we buy from.”Along the perimeter of the bar will be a mini market with baskets full of products like apples and pears, turnips and beets and anything else you could buy at a farmers market.“I want you to keep going to the farmer’s market, but if you miss your regular Saturday visit or just need a few ingredients, come on by. Think of it as a chef curated experience, you can cook with the same ingredients I use in the restaurant” says Pierce.Where the beer garden currently stands will be a deli case with sandwiches, a panini grill, espresso as well as hand-selected local cheeses.“You’ll find our house made egg salad, chicken salad, just ready to go. Or you can order it and eat it here,” Pierce said. “Or during apple season, get homemade applesauce or buy the apples and get our recipe.”There are also plans to have a greenscape that brings the outside in. On the opposite side of the entry, the whiskey bar will continue to keep its allure and has already evolved into much more of a cocktail bar. Mixologist Mark Weddle will remain, creating his concoctions using house made syrups and mixes.In many similar markets, you’ll have a market up front and the sandwich counter in the back. But in the case of Farmer’s Realm, the new restaurant will be in the back. The space will be cozier, with 80 seats, and feature local ingredients and global creations. “It’s a whole new ballgame because it allows you to do different things that don’t have to appeal to 200 people, rather 80 people,” Pierce said.I want you to keep going to the farmer’s market, but if you miss your regular Saturday visit or just need a few ingredients, come on by.Plus it’s the market that creates an entirely new profit stream and point of service.Pierce says he also hopes the market will become a meeting place for CSA members and their farmers. “This could be a place where you meet that farmer, who’s already dropping off goods here and you don’t have to meet him or her at 4:00, they’ll just be here. Maybe they’ll be having a drink. And you can talk about the animals, the meat, the produce. It’s hard to do that at Saturday market, they don’t have time to really engage in conversation because it’s so busy.”Pierce adds, “I like to think of it as office hours and you can get recipes and you can also meet the chef.”Pierce says they’re not trying to compete with the farmer’s market, rather be an extension of it, for the farmers and the customer. “We’re bringing the farm to the city in a much more convenient and relaxing way. We’re open for 14 meal periods and we can be open and available and it will allow the farmers to interact with the guests. We want customers to get a piece of the relationship that we’re a part of every day.”Kick Ass Concepts President Bart Ortiz adds, “It’s really a community gathering place where people can come together, where the food producers that raise the food are hanging out with the people who are preparing the food and with the people who are consuming it and maybe taking it back home with them. When it’s all done, this place will be more of a pub than it’s ever been.”Pierce agrees, “A pub is really a community center.”We were fortunate to be at the last dinner service this past week and Pierce took the opportunity to share with us some ideas he’s working on such as pickled watermelon and kimchi squash, a fivespice local pork over succotash and even a pea shoot salad with fresh corn and a house-made ranch. We think the general public will like what’s in store (though we will miss those Scotch Eggs and the Fish & Chips). As for the market… “We want to celebrate the local artisans who are doing cool things. It’ll be like the coolest 7 Eleven ever, but with a curated selection, just for you,” Pierce said. !KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.WANNA go?Farmer’s Realm will be located at 1211 Battleground Ave next to RED Cinemas in the heart of Midtown. Regular updates will be posted on Facebook and other forms of social media. Projected opening is early winter.