Brad Long doesn’t just pay lip service to the importance of supporting locally produced fare — he’s rolling up his sleeves to deliver the goods to his clientele.

At his four-hectare property in the Stouffville area northeast of Toronto, the executive chef teams up with farming partner Tawfik Shehata, chef at Toronto restaurant Vertical, to work the land.

Long, co-host of Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover, previously served as executive chef for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for 10 years, which owns and operates Toronto major-league sports franchises including the Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC.

He is an advocate of a fresh, local, sustainable and organic approach to food, which he now infuses into his Toronto eatery. It’s a philosophy he is also hoping to encourage others to embrace and incorporate in their own lives.

“It’s not just about what you eat now. It’s where the food comes from and how it’s grown, the integrity of the processes,” Long said in an interview at Veritas. “That means people being fairly paid to produce it, work in the fields; it’s about how the animals are treated; it’s about the chemicals that are or are not used in the processes.

“The process sounds really complicated, but the solution is really quite easy because it’s about choosing the foods that you buy, or how you eat or where you eat.”

Long suggests one place to start is to try asking a few more questions of your suppliers, such as where products are sourced from, if they know the individuals who provided them and whether there’s something comparable that is even more local.

“In that process, you’re asking questions, you’re sort of educating yourself, but you’re also getting into your own processes of feeding yourself,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean you have to change everything you do, change your diet or change where you shop — it just means you have to try a little harder, ask a few more questions, become a little more aware of (where) things come from.”

Wide variety
Swiss chard, artichokes, peppers, eggplants, herbs, pumpkin and squash are among the wide variety of fresh homegrown produce from his farm start-up that Long brings in to his own downtown restaurant, Veritas, for use in his dishes. They’re also among the same ingredients he purchases from other local farmers and distributors.