My Day with the International Chef

Geoff Pickle, Web EditorMy day with Farmers Gastropub owner Bill Griffiths harkened back to my younger years growing up in a small Ozarks farm town in northern Arkansas.

I grew up knowing exactly where most of my food came from – the cattle we ate grazed in a field adjacent to my backyard and pigs grew up and got fat nearby. My dad raised the cattle himself for many years and trucked them out to a butcher in the south Missouri town of Koshkonong. My first few years of life, he had a pig farm right next to our house in a tiny Missouri lake town just off the Arkansas/Missouri border. While no longer farmers, my parents continue to keep a garden and grow their own produce.

While I still ate Cheerio’s and a number of other processed foods, I took for granted the fact I was eating a large portion of my diet from local sources.

Today, that’s a huge selling point for local restaurants and corporate chains alike. People have started asking questions and want to know where their food is coming from.

Bill knows this well, and it’s a concept vital to his business model.

“Younger people have gotten back into the idea that agriculture is a viable business model,” he told me. “That’s why the farmers markets have just exploded. I’d like to think we had a little bit of a hand in that. It feels good to have been part of that cultural change.”

The Springfield transplant – who grew up in England and also speaks French – was gracious enough to grant SBJ an audience on May 6 as part of our Day in the Life series.

He was happy to show off his food purchased from across the area – huge, purple heads of hydroponic lettuce, plump red tomatoes and various meats. The restaurant owner also grows his own herbs outside the new location for Farmers Gastropub, including mint and dill.

Bill was happy to show off the lettuce used in his restaurant.

Bill was happy to show off the lettuce used in his restaurant.

Bill plays up the health benefits of eating foods that aren’t overly processed, and notes he has lost weight by paying attention to where his food comes from.

During this particularly sunny and hot day, Bill traveled to the Greater Springfield Farmers Market, Mountain Springs Trout Park in Highlandville and Terrell Creek Farm in Fordland.

The beautiful Mountain Springs Trout Park had 10,000 pounds of rainbow trout for customers to catch.

The beautiful Mountain Springs Trout Park had 10,000 pounds of rainbow trout for customers to catch.

Terrell Creek, in particular, reminded me of home. Getting there was an adventure all in its own. The farm resides down a rough gravel road, narrow and rocky with holes aplenty and dirt kicked up by the vehicle’s wheels. His Eurovan got through it, and we were treated to a goat farm with filled with animals. SBJ photographer Wes Hamilton and I sampled the goat cheese – yummy – and met some of the “kids,” baby goats that acted so much like puppies it was quite funny.

I snapped a photo with my iPhone of the kids at Terrell Creek Farm in Fordland.

I snapped a photo with my iPhone of the kids at Terrell Creek Farm in Fordland.

Bill’s daily path brought back peaceful and carefree thoughts of childhood, and I was happy to be along for the ride.

A love story
The story of how Bill came to be here seems too good to be true.

While living in a cottage on the south side of Paris – where he could literally fish out the window – he became quite familiar with the city of love as family members would often visit and he would play tour guide.

He met his wife – Farmers Gastropub co-owner and Springfield native Christina Fugitt-Griffiths – at the Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris.

 

While driving to Fordland, Bill recalls the story of how he met his wife.

While driving to Fordland, Bill recalls the story of how he met his wife.

This is where it really starts to sound like a film. That love story trope where the man accidentally trips into the woman and they fall madly in love? That’s the actual tale of the Griffiths.

Bill was headed one way and Christina was headed another, and while stopped at the station, Bill was saying goodbye to friends and was slowly walking backwards when he tripped over a suitcase. Who might that belong to? His future wife, of course.

Being in France, he apologized and began to converse with her in French, but soon realized she had an accent. In French, he asked her if she was Canadian, but she replied she was American. In English, he told her she spoke French very well and convinced her to let him buy her coffee.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The couple eventually moved to Springfield when Christina needed to take care of her mother. Call it an act of fate, perhaps, because the Ozarks just so happen to be a hotbed of locally grown and produced foods.

Bill realized a 30-year dream in October 2009 with the opening of his gastropub restaurant downtown. The British-style pub and eatery relocated on New Year’s Eve to the Brentwood Center on South Glenstone Avenue, where he says he wanted to be all along.

Is this the ending of Bill’s story? I doubt it. I’m interested to see where it goes next.

Related:

Day in the Life with Bill Griffiths

Photo Gallery

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