After 12 years working in restaurant kitchens as a chef, Jeremy Storey found himself in Chicago, working the front of the house at Alinea, a Michelin-starred restaurant known as the foremost home in North America for the rarified cuisine known as molecular gastronomy. From his vantage point in the dining room, Jeremy watched purveyors -- farmers, fishermen, and hunters -- walk through the doors in the morning, fresh off the fields, boat, or woods, holding boxes of their finest findings for the chefs’ perusal. Though he’d landed arguably one of the better jobs in the country as far as the restaurant world goes, Jeremy couldn’t help but envy those producers.
Storey Farms, which Jeremy eventually started to follow his dreams of working outdoors to produce for high-end restaurants.
“They’re still a part of this incredible process,” he explains, “but they get to be outdoors. I started bringing in things that I had hunted: salmon that I’d brought back from salmon fishing trips, or pheasants I’d hunted.”
One of those pheasants actually made it into Time Magazine in 2010, when Chef Grant Achatz was profiled.
“The photo pictures him holding up one of the pheasants I had brought. That was a turning point for me.”
He knew what he wanted to do. Not long after, Jeremy and his wife moved from cold and windy Chicago to humid, scrubby John’s Island, South Carolina, and bought 15 acres. They started raising chickens, eggs, and a smattering of other livestock, and selling the small batches of Cornish Rock and Red Rangers chicken back to Alinea in Chicago.
Jeremy applied the lessons he learned at Alinea, watching purveyors sell their wares, and applied that to his own farming.
“Because of my time there, I know how important it is that the product is absolutely impeccable when it comes in the back door. At a farmers market, you can sell easier based on idealism. But you can’t pull one over on a chef -- they have to justify the price they’re paying for the product. So what you bring them had better be delicious and consistent.”
These days, Jeremy, his family, and their golden retrievers are focused on producing delicious heritage-cross chicken underneath the towering oaks on Storey Farms.
Always thinking about the flavor and texture he wants in his chicken, Jeremy built special outdoor chicken houses by hand, all with the purpose of encouraging them to move around.
“The houses are open air, and they’re 150 feet long, with water on one end and food on the other end. That forces them to get some exercise. I want to ensure my chickens are behaving how they would in nature, watching them flap their wings and run around. What results is chicken that tastes like an actual bird. Some people don’t like that it’s a little firm, but I do. The problem with a commercial broiler chicken is that it tastes like mush, whereas this chicken tastes like a chicken. People who try it say it’s the best chicken they’ve ever had.”