Rooted in the Ozarks
What does it mean to be ‘rooted in Ozark cuisine?’ Our team has spent a lifetime trying to answer this question. Through our research of family journals and letters from the early 1800s, we have uncovered over 200 years of history. History that includes the bold families of indigenous people, enslaved residents, and Euro-Appalachian immigrants that tamed the wild lands of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri (and tips of Oklahoma and Kansas). These are the people who defined what has become known as Ozark cuisine.
In our 4th year at Bulrush we have further intensified our historical exploration of Ozark foodways to what we call Reparative Restauranting (See Chef’s summary of 5 years of reparative practice).
Reparative Restauranting is a business model that centers those who have been harmed in the past, making amends for past harms, stopping present harm, and preventing the continuation of harm in the restaurant industry. To this end, Bulrush uses staff-driven history research to ensure all cultures and communities of the past are acknowledged, honored and supported through our work.
Our exploration requires due diligence in our research to ensure the contributions of indigenous people, African Americans, and those who were enslaved, are told front and center. We show how harmed people were integral in white settlers’ successes. We commit to guest chefs from harmed communities telling their own story rather than believing we can justly speak on their behalf.
This is the future of restaurants – dutifully highlighting the origins of food and acknowledging the people who once stood on the land from which we now profit, then giving back through dollars and human investment (mentorship at area high school culinary programs) to the communities that have been historically harmed, and using our privileged voice to amplify their stories.
Recognizing the links between oppression and climate change, we continue to re-introduce 18th century seeds through a network of diverse growers, generating novel strategies to eliminate food waste, and locally sourcing 88% of our ingredients. We do these projects because we believe restaurants should lead the way in responding to our climate crisis.
All of this is work I have been doing for nearly 15 years, intensifying these efforts over the past four years at Bulrush, and my team does it in a way that is approachable for the general public, through plates of delicious food.
Guiding Philosophies & Values
The primal satisfaction that comes from good food – really good food – can’t be replicated. We must cultivate and sustain the source. This is why we forage, grow only what belongs here, and gather only what we need.
Our food is not only seasonal, but hyper-seasonal. We want you to experience fresh ingredients at their best possible moment – and then again, after they’ve been preserved and become even more delicious. Sorry, no hot-house tomatoes in January for us.
It’s just like our ancestors said, “If you want peaches in January, you better have canned some in July.”
- Innovation: We don’t need to fly in extravagant ingredients. We need to wow you with sustainable, local ingredients treating with cutting edge thought. We’re not interested in copying the latest, greatest Instagram chefs. We’re interested in giving you something you can not get anywhere else.
- Authenticity via transparency: We regularly publish our ingredient sourcing and financial figures to demonstrate our commitment to local farmers. We share “white papers” on all of our research efforts so you can see how the food on your plate came to be. We share all finances with our staff so they see the direct tie between sales to gratuities to salary.
- Supporting emerging restaurants, especially those owned by immigrants and marginalized groups
- You can rest assured that all of our locally grown ingredients are organically raised.
- We gather our own foraged ingredients to ensure that they were gathered ethically and legally. We have numerous participants in our Bulrush Land Partnership giving us access to nearly 10,000 acres of pristine private land on which to forage.
- Our kitchen is zero-waste. All scraps become sauces, fermented drinks, and in rare cases, food waste is sent to compost. We average 5 gallons of food compost a week.
- We work with a number of local farms to raise a handful of rare produce that we’ve documented to 1841.
- We strive to have the top spirit-free drink program in the region. Much of this stems from our Zero Waste practices.
- All of our staff is paid a fair wage in conjunction with our all-inclusive prices. The prices you see on our menus are inclusive of tax and hospitality.