“I like knowing who grows our food; I like knowing how much love they put into what they’re growing,” shared Executive Chef and Co-founder Shelley Elson-Roza of Heirloom Fine Foods. Chef Shelley and her husband Tony, who serves as COO, were inspired to start a locally-focused, sustainable catering company roughly seven years ago. Around that time, the two were living in Chicago but wanted to get married in their hometown of Omaha. They envisioned a wedding close to family and with a strong sense of place in order to show friends from around the country the romanticism of Nebraska’s summer landscape of blue skies and cornfields, Elson-Roza said. “We were a little bummed when we had difficulty finding a caterer that was excited about our wedding, excited about using locally sourced food, and excited about trying new things. After our wedding, we decided there was a great opportunity to change paths and start a catering company that had what we had been looking for.”
From the onset, sourcing locally and organically has been a key value for Heirloom Fine Foods. To make this even more clear, the business’ website espouses this fact with their business tenets: Live – locally sourced, Learn – sustainable practices, and Celebrate – life’s most precious moments.
Inspired by places like Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, the Rozas try to cook and live as much of a slow food life as possible. “We believe very deeply in supporting our local agricultural system, eating and cooking seasonally, and cooking from scratch,” the chef affirmed. That has resulted in Heirloom Fine Foods emerging as Omaha’s only caterer focused on local and organic foods, and one of two focused on zero waste practices. Their business mission statement echoes these sentiments: “We are dedicated to supporting local agriculture by sourcing food from local farms and meat suppliers to obtain the highest quality ingredients while focusing on healthy, delicious, and nutritious food, often by reimagining classic dishes for life’s most special moments.”
For local sourcing, the Rozas primarily focus on Nebraska and Iowa. Favorites include Plum Creek Farms for chicken, Jon’s Naturals for beef, FarmTable Delivery and Lone Tree Foods for procurement, Honey Creek Creamery and Dutch Girl Creamery for cheeses, Flavor Country Farms for mushrooms, and they’ve also had a long working relationship with Fork N Farm. Heirloom Fine Foods sources from many other producers, as well, including from throughout the region, but the aforementioned ones are weekly delivery partners.
“I really enjoy working with farmers and getting to know them. Many have become some of our closest friends and people we admire…It’s tremendously hard work and we like keeping as much money in our communities as possible,” Elson-Roza said. On a larger scale, Elson-Roza noted that it’s also tremendously important to source locally from a food security standpoint, as well as to develop products with the terroir of the region. “The Midwest needs to take pride and nurture our local food system[s],” Elson-Roza said.
To get a taste of this local labor of love, patrons can look into Heirloom’s regular monthly offerings: an ever-changing themed Supper Club, High Tea, and various cooking classes, all held at their bespoke brick and mortar space.