You will never starve in this town.
Not as long as Ivor Chodkowski’s around.
Louisville locavore pioneer and farmer Chodkowski is planning a new restaurant in the restaurant row forming along East Market in NuLu, an operation that will be focused on maximizing local food offerings.
Harvest is scheduled to open next March at 624 E. Market St., Chodkowski said.
Here’s his vision for Harvest: “We’re imagining a menu that’s 80-percent local, re-envisioning local cuisine. We won’t be exactly southern, we’ll be regional. But there certainly will be southern influences.”
Now, the problem – let’s call it a “challenge” – of doing a local-food restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, is that Louisville is both the hottest and coldest place on the planet.
“There are six or eight weeks in the winter (when) it’s going to be tough, but we’ll plan for that, supplementing with different crops such as winter greens and winter squash,” Chodkowski said. There are a lot of “interesting foods” that can be grown here including Asian style vegetable such as bok choi and Chinese cabbages, vegetables hardy enough to be available when other crops aren’t, he said.
Chodkowski added that with the improvements in boutique farming and regional distribution, he believes offering “local” foods throughout most of the year is feasible.
“If we’d done this 10 years ago, I’d be nervous about sourcing.”
The Harvest partnership includes Chodkowski, brothers Peter Kuhl and Patrick Kuhl and Jim McArthur. And Chodkowski is hinting that Harvest could expand out to a larger investor base, adding that it’s too early to discuss details. (More when we know more.)
When he’s not putting together restaurant partnerships, Chodkowski is an actual farmer, running the Field Day Family Farm behind Oxmoor Center on one of Louisville’s largest undeveloped parcels of urban acreage.
The farm sells food to consumers via a subscription program.
He’s also a fixture at the Highlands Farmer’s Market.
So, Ivor know victuals.
Harvest is planned for the building that housed the defunct FB3 Development food-and-beverage business incubator. The space includes the infrastructure in plumbing and electricity for a large kitchen, said Chodkowski and Patrick Kuhl, who is acting as project manager.
“The kitchen is still there,” Chodkowski said, including gas lines and plumbing upgrades.
Which is part of the reason Chodkowski and the Kuhl brothers abandoned an earlier plan to open Havest in a building the Kuhl’s own at 921 Barrett Ave. in the original Highlands.
The Barrett location was supposed to open in 2009, but it proved too expensive to convert into a restaurant, according to Chodowski and Patrick Kuhl.
The NuLu space also is much larger, a total of about 9,000 square feet on two floors, compared to 5,000 square feet on Barrett.
But Chodkowski said he doubts the partners will use the upstairs as part of the restaurant.
The plan is to have about 100 seats, he said, with a full bar that will include – you guessed it – local wines and beers.
The interior will be “comfortable and accessible,” Chodowski said. “You’ll feel comfortable whether you’re wearing a suit or blue jeans.”
Prices will be mid-range, and in line with the other Nulu restaurants, topping out at $16 or $17 entrees, he said.
Chodkowski acknowledge that Harvest will be one of perhaps a dozen restaurant operating or planned with-in five blocks — from Mozz at 445 E. Market on the west to Mayan Café on the east at 813. E. Market. Several new restaurants are scheduled to open on East Market by next spring including Decca at 812 E. Market.
“There’s a lot to be said for going where local food activity already is. Call it ‘coopatition’ or agglomeration,” Chodkowski said, adding that it’s been the vision of Gill Holland and other NuLu developers to make the area an entertainment and business district.
In an e-mail from New York City, Holland called the Harvest project “super exciting, more proof that Louisville is the local-food capital of the USA!”
“I do think (Nulu) will become the place to go when folks are thinking about local food and good food in general,” Chodowski said.
The Harvest partnership: Ivor Chodowski, Peter Kuhl and his younger brother Patrick Kuhl have been friends since they grew up one street apart in Louisville’s Highlands Neighborhood. The Kuhls own Kuhl’s Tavern liquor store and deli on Grade Lane. Another partner in Harvest, Jim McArthur has an MBA, “and we’re counting on Jim to do a lot of the financial work,” Chodkowski said.
The celebrity: Ivor Chodkowski has gained recognition for his work in organic farming and the local food movement. He was included in the April/May 2009 edition of Garden & Gun, our favorite magazine of all time:
Though soft-spoken by nature, Ivor Chodkowski exudes plenty of power once he gets talking about his issues—sustainable urban agriculture, and reuniting food customers with nature’s food chain. Chodkowski sells a wide range of organic produce from an eight-acre farm and also runs Grasshoppers Distribution, a clearinghouse that connects local small farmers with steady customers (mainly high-end restaurants and bulk-buying institutions). In addition to running an education and apprenticeship program at his Family Field Day Farm, Chodkowski is involved in the Community Farm Alliance and runs a Community Supported Agriculture program. The best way to experience his work is at Saturday’s Bardstown Road Farmer’s Market, when he and his crew cook up made-to-order omelets using produce fresh from the fields and eggs warm from the hen.