Food Insider: Chef Donnie Ferneau of Good Food by Ferneau

Ever wonder what makes some of Little Rock’s food personalities tick? Rock City Eat’s latest series, Food Insider, takes a look at individuals who are helping change the landscape of our city’s culinary scene. Whether they’re in the kitchen, managing a storefront, farming land or running a food truck … we’ll delve into both the professional and personal side of these dynamite people. This week, we have Chef Donnie Ferneau of Good Food by Ferneau.

How long has Good Food by Ferneau been open?
Since March of last year, and then we opened for business in late September in the Argenta Market.

Are you happy with the Argenta neighborhood?
Now that we’ve been in Argenta, I probably would have picked it first because it is a beautiful neighborhood, I love it. I love the people there.

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What is the concept behind Good Food by Ferneau?
The mentality of the southern chef, the mentality of the southern appetite, it’s all heavy with butter and very fried. When I had Ferneau, I cooked for my audience and I gave everybody what they wanted. I started to truly look at what good food can do for your body. That was really my huge inspiration. Supporting the local farmer and eating sustainable foods that aren’t riddled with pesticides, hormones or antibiotics, that’s how your body gets healthy for the long-haul. Our concept with the food is … we’re going more with quality over quantity. We don’t have a giant menu for that reason, we are at the mercy at our farmers for what we can get. We create big batch food in the daytime and we sell it for lunch as well. Then we have these bpa-free containers and we have pick up points throughout the whole city. We also have a full beautiful bar open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Can you describe the aesthetic of the restaurant?
We wanted the food to be the feature, and so the restaurant is mostly black and white. We do have some cool neon on the outside, but for the most part we wanted the décor to take you back to an American feel of mid-century modern.

Is there any particular dish on the menu that is a fan favorite?
We do a dish called the Unfried Chicken and this is kind of where I lose some of my audience because they hear the word healthy and think it can’t be good. It’s baked and rather than using breading and sugar and flour, we use flaxseed so its high in omega-3, and we’re using local sustainable chicken. We also roast sweet potatoes with it, but we’re not adding any butter, sugar or cream. It includes a gravy – a salt and pepper gravy – with cauliflower and almond milk, so it’s also dairy free.

So far, has there been a best and worst element to taking on this food venture?
The worst part is the lack of education of people actually knowing what sustainable food is, and the importance of eating local and giving money back to our local economy by stimulating local farmers. At the same time, the frustrating part is exciting because we get to educate people about it with our food.

Do you have any exciting news lined up for the future?
We’re going to start shipping some of our food nationwide this summer, which is exciting. Also, we have this huge grocery store space where we built a fabulous bar with phone chargers all the way around it with purse hooks, we’ve got a great sound system, TV’s, the whole nine yards. We’re going to be booking that for event space for live music at nighttime and on the weekends.

What is the best food city you’ve visited?
Chicago.

What are your hobbies outside running Good Food by Ferneau?
I love riding bikes, I like being outside and exploring Arkansas. I also like to keep my body as fit as I can so I can go on crazy adventures like hiking Petit Jean.

What would you like to see more of in Little Rock?
As far as the food scene I’d like to see the culinary audience of this city try some more things and support things that aren’t cheeseburgers or pizza. I think we need more diversity with food.

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Food Insider: Chef Donnie Ferneau of Good Food by Ferneau