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Chefs Embrace Farm-to-Table Movement

Chefs Embrace Farm-to-Table Movement

The Farm to Table movement promotes farm fresh food as well as the knowledge of where your food comes from.

Chick Jacobs | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

SOUTHERN PINES – Chopping tobacco or chopping barbecue: those were the options Rhett Morris faced as a teen in rural Moore County.

As the tall, tanned chef with an easy smile chatted his way through his third batch of peach-corn salsa on a sweltering Saturday morning in downtown Southern Pines, there’s no doubt in his heart – or taste buds – that he made the right decision.

Morris worked with a fragrant mix of peaches, sweet corn husks and hot peppers, with an occasional wasp dropping by.

“He won’t eat much,” Morris joked to a crowd of curious consumers. “And if he does, I’ll just have to make more.”

Morris, the owner of Rhett’s on Pennsylvania Street, has joined a rotating cast of chefs from Moore County in a two-part crusade to increase awareness and educate palates. On the second Saturday morning of each summer month, these home-grown cooks bring local produce and fertile imagination to the farmers market off Pennsylvania Street. The market is operated and managed by the Moore County Farmers Market Association

The requirements are simple: whatever you cook has to be finished on site, and it must be made solely from Moore County produce.

“The closer items are grown, the fresher they are. And the fresher they are, the better they’re going to taste,” he says. “They like to say, ’There’s more in Moore,’ and when it comes to produce, I can believe it.”

In the case of Morris’ salsa, nothing had to travel more than 50 miles. The corn was in the fields two days earlier, and the peaches were plucked the morning before. Even the jalapeno peppers, which gave the salsa a surprising kick, were grown locally.

Like the ingredients, the cook was a North Carolina product. The son of a preacher, Morris developed a fondness for sports, for fishing and for cooking. Three years ago, that fondness became his paying job, as the owner and chef at Rhett’s.