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BWW Interview: Weston Morabito of FRIEND OF A FARMER

We interviewed Weston Morabito, Assistant Director of Operations, of Friend of a Farmer, the farm to table restaurant with locations in Gramercy and Brooklyn Heights. He spoke to us about his career and the popular eatery that is family owned and operated. He also told us about one of their latest projects, the launch of Farmer's Blend coffee.

What makes Friend of a Farmer stand out beyond other farm to table eateries?

Friend of a Farmer stands out thanks to our consistency in what we offer to our guests. People line up for brunch because for 30 years we've been offering quality meals in an atmosphere that you genuinely cannot find anywhere in New York City.

When did you first become interested in the family business?

Taylor [Weston's brother Taylor Morabito, now Director of Operations] has been a busboy since he was probably 12 and I think found his groove from an early age, I was more into helping our dad on the construction side, especially if demolition was involved.

How do you like working so closely with members of your family?

Well, Tay and I live together, so we figured if we could live together we can probably work together, and we still haven't gotten enough of each other, so I think so far it had been great. It is also nice having someone you can speak honestly with that you know has the same interest and dedication you do.

What would you like our readers to know about Carrie Morabito founding Friend of a Farmer?

She is a woman with vision, passion and an attention to detail that is borderline supernatural -- I think anyone that has every worked with her knows that. As a customer you can get a sense of that just by looking around at the decor, every inch of both the Brooklyn Heights location and Gramercy location has been thought out by her and my father and it all just works.

Tell us more about how the launch of Farmer's Blend coffee came about, the partnership with Devocion and the planned retail line?

For a while we've been wanting to get more into our branding and merchandising and we figured, what better way to do just that than with our coffee? So the first step was finding a supplier whose vision aligned with ours in terms of organic, farm-to-table ideology. We found that very quickly with Devocion; the entire company is so passionate about coffee that it's contagious. They came to our restaurant and we experimented by pairing our food with a customized blend of coffee beans until we found the perfect match, and that blend became our very own brew, Farmer's Blend, now available at both Friend of a Farmer locations.

How do you select the farms and suppliers you wish to work with?

Very similar to how we linked up with Devocion. We look for as local as possible without sacrificing the quality of our food.

What are some of the challenges of the business?

The most challenging aspect is to not try and please everyone, which can be a slippery slope. Some people just won't enjoy your food, and that's just how it is, and I think any restauranteur will agree with that. The problem is when you try and change to appease those few people you lose what you're all about, and what the 99% of people are coming back for.

What is your favorite offering at Friend of a Farmer?

The Duck Duet or the Terry Allan Chicken, which is filled with granny smith apples and cheddar cheese, served over homemade lemon bread with mashed potatoes and a citrus honey raisin sauce.

How are you influenced by food trends?

I don't think we are influenced by trends. For instance, we just had a meeting about avocado toast, which was all the rage for a little while, but it just doesn't feel right hopping onto a trend to make a quick buck. If you want avocado toast, we are more than happy to give you some on a nice slice of our homemade Honey Whole Wheat Toast.

How is the Brooklyn Heights location different from the original Gramercy restaurant?

The major difference is that most our of long time customers comment on is the sheer size of the Brooklyn location. For years we couldn't have large parties in Gramercy purely because we didn't have the space. Now in Brooklyn, we host 70- person dinners without a problem, so to me that's the biggest difference. We also make an effort to ensure your experience in Brooklyn is the same that it would be in Gramercy and vice versa, from the menu options to drink options, although the wine list is more extensive in Brooklyn.

What's next on the horizon for Friend of a Farmer?

Another 30 years!

About Friend of a Farmer

Since 1986, Friend of a Farmer has been a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, creating a reputation for seasonally fresh and local ingredients in a warm atmosphere with fireplaces and hand-built wooden columns, tables and light fixtures. Classic Americana fare executed to perfection is the draw, from dinner to brunch to lunch. Breads, muffins, pastries and pies are all baked on site highlighting seasonal produce from nearby farms, while juices for specialty cocktails are pressed in house.

The growing restaurant and brand was first founded as a 6-table café in Gramercy by Carrie Morabito to sell her homemade jams, preserves, sandwiches and baked goods. It has since bloomed as a comfort food capital, with the original Gramercy location expanding to two stories and a Brooklyn Heights location opening in late 2015. The newest incarnation of Friend of a Farmer is in a two-story townhouse complete with multiple fireplaces and an outdoor terrace. The Brooklyn Heights restaurant is known for its private events capabilities and sophisticated craft cocktail program.

As Friend of a Farmer grew, Carrie got her whole family involved: her husband Terry is a co-owner and works with Carrie on menu development while also crafting most of the dining room furniture for both locations. Sons Taylor and Weston handle front of the house operations, with Taylor taking charge of beverages.

In 2016 the Morabito family opened a rib shack near their Long Island, NY hometown, Stuey's Smokehouse BBQ in Locust Valley, yet another example about how they continue to blossom as restaurateurs.

For more information about Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy and Brooklyn Heights and Stuey's Smokehouse in Locust Valley, visit:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Friend of a Farmer

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