Nestled away in the confines of the Clinton Presidential Center is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in all of Little Rock, a delicious and locally focused restaurant called Forty Two, named for the forty-second president of the United States. Patrons from all over the world come to explore President Bill Clinton’s library and many of them stop to dine at Forty Two, lead by Executive Chef Stephen Burrow.
Burrow ensures that the patrons stopping by for lunch get a taste of Little Rock before departing. He does this by incorporating locally sourced meats, vegetables, fruits, herbs and other local ingredients to the dishes that he and his team create.
“My philosophy for buying locally is that it is not only imperative to our physical well-being, but fiscally supports a level of grassroots economics that is key to our local economy and heritage. As a chef that was raised in the Arkansas Delta region, I see it as not only a responsibility, but a necessity for our region’s cultural longevity,” Burrow said.
Burrow strives to source ingredients that are raised locally (within a 120 miles or so), naturally and sustainably.
“We get livestock from Circle K Ranch in Sheridan. We get poultry from Crystal Lake Farms in northwest Arkansas. Also, we source produce and herbs from several local farms including Hardin Family Farms, Laughing Stock Farms, Arkansas Natural Produce, Armstead Mountain Farms, Tanner Organic Farms and The Russian Farmer.”
Richard Tanner of Tanner Organic Farms knows first hand about working with Burrow.
“Stephen is not shy of having a green thumb and promoting local producers. He has learned that fresh from the field– organic or conventional, but ‘natural’– by far supersedes products [and] produce shipped from out of state or country and has a belief in supporting our local economy with local producers,” Tanner said.
“Stephen is never short of ideas, which not only shines at Forty Two, but is exemplified in every other endeavor. It’s been a blessing working with Stephen, and I am proud that we have been blessed with great produce for him to work with,” Tanner said.
Burrow said he often sources other items from local businesses such as baked goods from Arkansas Fresh Bakery, cheese from Kent Walker Artisan Cheese and water from Mountain Valley Spring Water.
But, perhaps the most interesting location in which Burrow sources ingredients is right beside the patio of the restaurant.
Burrow and Mike Selig, the head of the Food, Beverage and Events department at the Clinton Foundation, created the Terrace Gardens about four years ago. Now, with the guidance and help of the folks at The Good Earth Garden, Burrow and Sous Chef Gilbert Alaquinez work together to figure out which crops to rotate through the gardens.
“Our culinary team tends to the gardens ourselves and everything is grown without chemical fertilizers,” Burrow said.
“We use some natural pesticides (citronella plants, lavender, etc.), and minerals (calcium carbonate, etc.) to maintain the integrity of our produce.”
“Right now we have several types of tomatoes, eggplant, jalapenos, bell peppers, dill, lemongrass, sweet basil, purple basil, Thai basil, mint, thyme, and parsley in our Terrace Gardens,” Burrow said.
Everything the gardens produce is utilized in some capacity at Forty Two. Sometimes that means the produce will be used in a dish on the menu, a daily special or perhaps during the upcoming annual Clinton Center Culinary Camps.
“I get super excited this time of year because we get to do a lot of fun things with the kids. We have one of our farmer friends coming in to talk to them about WOOFing, we take them to Tanner Organic Farms for a day on a farm. We take our first year students to tour different size kitchens all over town. Our fourth year graduates do a Pop Up restaurant for their friends and family at the end of the week, where they plan everything from the menus to the table scapes.”
Information about the camps and other events can be found on the website of Forty Two.
Whether you work in downtown Little Rock or if you’re visiting from another city, Forty Two will be growing, purchasing and serving up delicious, locally grown food. Be sure to check out the new seasonal menu, which was unveiled last month, and make plans to dine at Forty Two.