This PGF story was written by Laura Bonds.
Honoring family tradition is an important element of business for Farm and Fig, a catering company started in 2018. Dino Grisanti and Marc Henley, together with their wives Carolyn and Vanessa, keep history and heritage at the forefront of their work. Building on what previous generations provided through farming and hard work in the restaurant business, the foursome relies on cultivating much of their own produce and working with local vendors to produce other ingredients. This desire to work with the earth inspires their approach to the environment and they do what they can to keep it clean for the next generation of their family.
The Grisanti name is well-known to Memphians, having been dedicated to the restaurant scene in Memphis for generations. Marc’s wife, Vanessa, and Dino’s wife, Carolyn, are sisters, so Marc and Dino have known each other closely for years. When the opportunity to take over a catering business presented itself, the group jumped at the opportunity to add another food business to their family’s resume and build something of their own. It’s not just Dino’s culinary skills that carry Farm and Fig. “Everyone cooks well,” he claims, with Carolyn having completed a pastry program and Marc an impressive bread maker from his own self-studies. Vanessa and Carolyn have careers outside of the business but make Farm and Fig a priority in addition to their work.
Black and white photos of family members line the walls of the narrow kitchen and retail space they occupy on Cooper Street, a nod to family members who inspire the team. Each picture has a story and the thoughtfulness found in the display of photos is also evident in their care for food. This reverence for food and the land from which it comes enables the family to honor their heritage while making environmentally conscious decisions.
Marc and Dino hold tight to their roots by maintaining urban farms in their backyards, reminiscent of the farms ancestors worked on and later owned. The farms have chickens and rabbits as well as produce used in Farm and Fig dishes. Marc, especially, is experienced with this type of backyard farming, having kept up with his farm for 18 years. “There’s nothing better than getting your hands in the dirt,” he explains. For Farm and Fig, as the name suggests, it’s about working with the earth to produce great food and make use of what they have.
Nothing goes to waste in the kitchen as everything is recycled, reused, or composted. Marc reflects on his mother’s side of the family where she was one of 10 children and where no food was left uneaten. In his farm, the animals are on the receiving end of any unusable scraps of food the business produces. Even the excess flour from the sourdough bread gets turned into a starter ingredient for other foods.
Farming and creating their own produce is incredibly satisfying for the brothers-in-law. “It’s food that comes from nothing,” Dino said, but they use what comes from the earth and turn it into something delightful. Their dedication to the land and to the history of family members who worked hard to produce food for their families and peers drives them to continue the heritage and pass along tradition to the next generation.
Making connections with others, whether it be family, customers, or neighbors, is another key ingredient in success for Farm and Fig. What they don’t grow in their own backyards Marc and Dino work to get from local producers. Delta Grind provides polenta for the polenta bread on the menu. City Fungi and Carpenter Art Garden are also frequently used to stock ingredients. Connecting with others in the industry is something Project Green Fork does well for Farm and Fig and their certified partners. “They’re an organization that knows what they’re doing,” Dino states. “We have similar goals [for the environment] in mind.”
Giving back to the earth and honoring tradition are non-negotiable for the family business at Farm and Fig. Their dedication to preserving the past shows up through their great food and farming practices. The farming practices help the environment and aim to provide a cleaner space with rich history for the next generation. Dino and Marc know that by recycling and using compostable products, by creating their own food and supporting other local farmers they are playing their part in creating a beautiful recipe for the future.