Mr. Johnny Blancher, 40, wears a blue sport jacket, has a clean smile and a firm handshake. He is the CEO of the recognized New Orleans restaurant, Ye Olde College Inn, and bowling alley, Rock n’ Bowl.
Despite his clean appearance and his professional demeanor, Mr. Blancher is an experienced farmer with much advice to offer beginning or experienced gardeners and any recipient of Green Light’s Garden Build program.
You may not know it, but the 1933 established white tablecloth restaurant is farm-to-table.
“I thought that it had become a trendy thing and our intention was never to hop on a trend. We aren’t trying to create an image. We are truly just what we are,” says Mr. Blancher.
For many native Southerners and some local New Orleanians, the concept of farm-to-table is one that is not new, but rather popularized with the influx of young people to revitalize the city following Hurricane Katrina.
After the storm, Mr. Blancher purchased the vacant lot across the street from Ye Olde College Inn on South Carrolton Avenue where he began building raised garden beds in the shape of a cross. With a family history of Southern agriculture, Mr. Blancher felt prepared to face the challenges that come with growing food in New Orleans.
“I immediately recommend carrots and beets because they are delicious when they are full grown and when they are babies.” Beets and carrots have lots of calories in them and they are hardy. Mr. Blancher and his farm manager, Farmer Matt, suggest growing the Chioggia beet and Rainbow carrot varieties. In addition, the two successfully grow a variety of squashes, tomatoes, eggplant, and leafy greens.
Despite initial hesitation, Ye Olde College Inn is now a farm-to-table restaurant that values fresh organic ingredients while maintaining their reputation as an established restaurant with a strong New Orleans lineage. There is always something fresh on the menu, and the owner is a very experienced gardener willing to offer advice to all interested growers.
For detailed information about Mr. Blancher and farmer Matt’s successful crop varieties or questions about this story email us!