Winners of our 2013 Snailblazer Award and chefs for the past four years at our Shake the Hand That Feeds You open-air farm dinner, the folks at Skillet do an unparalleled job of combining sustainability with accessibility. The food is fantastic—just ask any of the people waiting in line outside the restaurant on a weekend morning—and the prices are reasonable. Behind the scenes, the Caskey family makes it all work with a combination of hard labor and sheer smarts. Chef Kevin makes sustainability affordable by choosing humbler cuts and seasonal greens, and he combines them in ways that are invariably not just good but craveworthy.
Skillet also refuses to buy from the third-party distributors who are increasingly drawn to local and sustainable food, because they buy in bulk and give a lower price to the farmer, instead buying directly from some of the biggest names in the central Ohio sustainable food world (as the massive sheath of receipts that they provided with their application attests). Paying a higher price to farmers, and putting in a lot of additional work to source the food, helps to ensure that everyone in the chain of production is treated fairly.
(By the way—did we mention that the food is really, really good?)
All in all, this is an exemplary farm-to-table restaurant. Very few chefs have such tight connections to their farmers. Given the difficulties of distribution for small farms, sourcing food directly takes a lot of work, as does focusing on food that is both outstanding and broadly accessible. The Caskeys are very relaxed folks and they make what they do look easy, but even by the standards of the restaurant industry running Skillet must require a staggering effort. That labor of love, day in and day out, is mute testimony to the Caskeys' deep commitment to sustainability.