Chico Agritourism & Locally Grown Farm-to-Table

In Season: Farm-to-Table Meals at Grana

Oth­er than wor­ry­ing about what to wear for the day, it’s easy in Cal­i­for­nia to for­get about the role of sea­sons in our lives. You can go to the super­mar­ket and get prac­ti­cal­ly any­thing you want at any­time: from straw­ber­ries in Novem­ber to man­darins in June, the rise of a glob­al food sup­ply has almost ren­dered sea­sons irrel­e­vant for most people.

But not for Jeff King, own­er and chef of Grana Wood Fired Foods in Down­town Chico, CA.

You’re not going to get toma­toes in Decem­ber” at Grana, says King.

Instead, din­ers expe­ri­ence the fresh­est sea­son­al pro­duce Butte Coun­ty has to offer. In 2018, 90% of what King spent on pro­duce went to busi­ness­es with 50 miles of Chico.

We made [a] com­mit­ment to do this,” says King of the farm-to-table food Grana serves. I’m not going to take shortcuts.”

Local­ly Sourced

King doesn’t hide where he sources his pro­duce. Read­ing Grana’s Decem­ber 2019 menu reads like a Who’s Who of Butte Coun­ty farm­ers: greens from Far­malot; cau­li­flower from GRUB CSA Farm; apples from Riparia. With his menu depen­dent on what’s sea­son­al­ly avail­able, those farm­ers aren’t just pro­duc­ers — they’re partners.

Part­ners that he’s grown with. When Grana opened on Christ­mas Eve 2011, he had lim­it­ed sup­plies avail­able to him from those local farms. Today, some farm­ers grow plots specif­i­cal­ly for Grana because King buys so much.

It’s been neat to see these farms grow and expand into dif­fer­ent mar­kets [out­side of Butte Coun­ty]. It’s been awe­some to grow with the farm­ers,” says King. It’s such a tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ty to build rela­tion­ships with local farm­ers; not every­one can do this.”

Back to Basics

King takes advan­tage of what he calls the Cor­nu­copia of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia” through his south­ern Italy-inspired menu, chang­ing it month­ly to reflect what’s avail­able from his part­ners. For din­ers, it means a new expe­ri­ence every time they sit down for a meal and feel­ing good know­ing where their food real­ly comes from.

For King, it’s a return to his roots. He grew up in his grand­par­ents’ restau­rant, which served tra­di­tion­al Amer­i­cana food in Grov­e­land, a small unin­cor­po­rat­ed town in down­state Illi­nois. King’s grand­par­ents cooked using sea­son­al ingre­di­ents because that’s what they had to do – fresh corn in the sum­mer, canned corn in the win­ter when fresh was nowhere to be found.

Peo­ple eat this way out of neces­si­ty,” says King, point­ing not only to his grand­par­ents, but also to com­mu­ni­ties through­out oth­er parts of the world. But we should be doing this because it’s the right choice [and] because we real­ly have this oppor­tu­ni­ty to source this food like this.”

Why not use fresh, local food on a sea­son­al basis?”

Peo­ple eat this way out of neces­si­ty, but we should be doing this because it’s the right choice [and] because we real­ly have this oppor­tu­ni­ty to source this food like this.”

Good Food Speaks for Itself

That belief and com­mit­ment to using local, sea­son­al ingre­di­ents earned Grana recog­ni­tion in 2018, 2019, and 2020 on the Good Food 100 Restau­rants List , a group that cel­e­brates chefs and restau­rants using their pur­chas­ing pow­er to hon­or and sup­port every link in the food chain, and change the food sys­tem for good.” Cal­i­for­nia was well-rep­re­sent­ed with 17 restau­rants hon­ored, but Grana was the only one north of San Fran­cis­co to earn the recognition.

Despite the cov­et­ed recog­ni­tion, King stays hum­ble. You can feel that humil­i­ty through­out Grana. Sim­ple wood­en tables adorn the old Grand Auto build­ing the restau­rant now occu­pies; din­ers are greet­ed with a bright red wall with Grand” paint­ed on it, an homage to its for­mer occu­pant. Expan­sive win­dows line the main din­ing room walls, sur­round­ed by trees that almost make you feel like you’re eat­ing out­side and a part of those sea­son­al changes that so influ­ence the menu.

King walks out­side to the din­ing patio and cuts sprigs of rose­mary to gar­nish a meal. The plat­ing feels sim­ple but abun­dant, a hearty and hum­ble offer­ing that reflects the man behind the meal.

Great ingre­di­ents don’t need much,” says King, plac­ing the fin­ish­ing herbs on the plate. Let them speak for themselves.”

In Season: Farm-to-Table Meals at Grana