Restaurant goes farm to fork
Monterey chef grows the fruits, nuts and veggies he serves
At Domenico's on the Wharf in Monterey, it's all about mouthwatering meals made from farm-fresh produce. The same ideal is held at Café Fina, also on Fisherman's Wharf. Both are the brainchild of Dominic Mercurio, who doesn't have to look far to source the produce for his eateries because, in addition to owning the restaurants, he also owns a 300-acre farm in Los Banos.
The idea of having a farm to supply his restaurants with produce started about 16 years ago when Dominic was driving past a San Joaquin orchard and made a spontaneous decision that would change his life.
"The land was for sale and there was this beautiful orchard there," Dominic remembered. "Even though I knew nothing about farming, I thought I could learn and so I gave it a try."
Dominic acknowledges that he was a complete rookie and friends used to tease him for being a city slicker. However, thanks to a lot of studying and hard work, every year his orchard and farm (or "little garden," as Dominic calls it) has gotten a little bigger.
"I bought every possible book you could buy on farming and read every single one," Dominic said. "There's a book called 'The Master Gardener,' and I think it's as thick as a phone book, but I read it cover to cover just so I could learn everything I could about the crops I was growing."
Today, as he drives around his farm on a tractor, he says all that hard work and perseverance has paid off. Apart from the cherries and nuts in his orchard, he grows a variety of other crops including zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. And he encourages his restaurants' 75 employees to come out to the farm and get their hands dirty as well.
"To have my employees come out here and interact with this farm is huge," Dominic said. "Customers love to hear about where their food comes from and now my employees can tell them from firsthand experience."
To find out more about Domenico's on the Wharf, visit www.domenicosmonterey.com.