Grey Plume's Food For Thought

Farm-fresh vegetables aren't the only thing deliciously green about this classy Omaha restaurant.



Alex Matzke

(This story originally appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Nebraska Life Magazine)

IT'S A PLEASANT FALL EVENING in Omaha, and residents, shoppers and tourists emerge from the day to sample the nightlife in the city’s revived Midtown Crossing. Sidewalk strollers chill inside coffee shops, art galleries and other trendy retail destinations, and tonight the jazz jams are stirring sweet and savory sounds for the thousands sitting in on the weekly free concert at Turner Park. As one star sets, another is rising directly above a restaurant on South 31st Avenue, a place perhaps even cooler and greener than Jazz on the Green.

When the 2010 holiday season arrived, the sleigh bells of Midtown Crossing developer Mutual of Omaha were ringing in joyous celebration for the opening of this cool place: The Grey Plume, the cutting-edge American cuisine restaurant owned by 24-year-old professionally trained hometown chef Clayton Chapman.

Green is the theme of this restaurant, which has adhered to more than 170 green practices, including the use of recycled steel framing, low-flow faucets, vegetable-based take-out boxes and bread plates made from repurposed wine bottles. It was a gourmet feather in its culinary cap when The Grey Plume earned the distinction as the greenest restaurant in the nation, and because of the restaurant’s policy of using locally grown items on its menu, area producers have gained some green, too.

Dozens of partnerships between this eatery and Nebraska farmers begin with antibiotic-free happy hogs from TD Niche Pork at Elk Creek, and the bison for its burgers once roamed the Nebraska range. A locally raised lamb is delivered every three weeks, farm-raised trout swim in from Blue Valley Aquaculture in Sutton, and Blacksheep Farms of Bennington provide Chapman with super-fresh chemical-free heirloom vegetables.

“It’s about knowing your growers,” Chapman says. “We visit the vast majority of the farms that we work with. We know their families. We’ve worked a day on the farm. We know the way that the animals were raised. We know the butcher that they go to when the animals are killed.”

This top chef’s wife, Bernadette, handles the cooking at home, and her marvelous culinary skills got kicked up a notch when she took a recreational cooking course from her future husband at the Metropolitan School for the Culinary Arts.

Sometimes the chef gets a special treat when his wife and 3-year-old son, Hudson Grey, whose middle name Chapman graced upon the now renowned restaurant, stop in for a visit. Bernadette places some flowers out front and brainstorms about nonprofit events The Grey Plume can host to increase its positive impact. Meanwhile, young Hudson puts on his chef apron and is ready to join in with Daddy’s colorful farm-to-plate mission that ends in festive style with dishes like a rib-eye that’s cooked tied to its 16-inch bone. With a dash of garnish grown in an herb garden just steps away from the kitchen, this masterpiece meal is finished, the enticing centerpiece of an evening that is just beginning.

A mournful saxophone whines into the Omaha night just blocks away, but the percussion here of knives and forks and spoons in harmony with food on the plates is music to Chapman’s ears.

“What we’re here to do is make people happy,” he said.

Keeping the flavors real, his suppliers close, and his restaurant green is this chef’s golden rule.

 

Pumpkin Agnolotti

Celebrate the fall season in style by making this pumpkin agnolotti recipe in your own kitchen. This cousin of ravioli is the invention of The Grey Plume’s star chef, Clayton Chapman.

 

 1 /2  cup of canned pumpkin puree

1 /4  cup grated Parmesan 1 /4  tsp of lemon zest 

1 /8  tsp sugar  

2  Tbsp butter

1 /4  cup creme fraiche 

18  wonton wrappers 

1  egg 

2  Tbsp pasta cooking liquid  

pepitas (toasted shelled pumpkin seeds)  

salt and pepper


Mash together in a medium bowl: 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/8 tsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp lemon zest, and then add salt and pepper. Arrange 18 round or square wonton wrappers on a work surface and brush edges with lightly beaten egg. Place 1 tsp filling from bowl on each bottom half of wontons and fold top halves over, gently pressing edges to seal. Boil agnolotti in salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Melt 2 Tbsp butter with 1/4 cup creme fraiche in a saute pan. Add agnolotti and 2 Tbsp pasta cooking liquid; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and pepitas.

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