Through local sourcing and waste reduction, Foreign & Domestic Co-owner Sarah Heard crafts Texas-rooted, sustainably focused and delicious plates.
By Rachel Rascoe, Photos by Nguyet Vo, Josh Huskin and Sarah Heard
It’s a quiet weekday morning at Foreign & Domestic, a petite, sustainably minded American eatery situated in a former skateboard shop on North Loop. The restaurant doesn’t open until dinnertime, but Sarah Heard, co-executive chef and co-owner, just finished placing Mason jars filled with bright, simple blossoms on all the tables and windowsills. The flowers are a new addition since Heard and her business partner (and life partner), Nathan Lemley, bought the restaurant a little more than a year ago.
“We’ve made it a point to always have flowers because it goes right along with growing,” Heard says. “That’s one of my big food philosophies: Every part of the process is important. Respect the dirt that it was planted in. Respect the farmer that grew it. If somebody along that line doesn’t care, it’s going to show in the food.”
After more than a dozen years of cooking in Austin, Heard now inhabits three-quarters of an acre of land in Luling, Texas, where she forages for prickly pear cactus, wild onions and mustang grapes alongside her persimmon and peach trees. The Texas native loves incorporating lesser-known state ingredients into the eatery’s thoughtful, locally rooted plates.
Heard shares her country home with a cat, a rabbit, about 50 chickens and her 6-year-old daughter. Her Twitter bio succinctly states her roles: “chef, mom, hippie, chicken wrangler.”
“It’s important for my daughter to have that regard for life,” she says. “We hatch the chickens, she raises them and then sometimes we eat them. I don’t want her to ever have a disconnect from where food comes from.”
Foreign & Domestic’s diner-style, open-concept kitchen allows guests to see every step in the preparation of the restaurant’s simple, elegant helpings. Behind the scenes, Heard maintains a coordinated effort to shop locally and reduce waste.
Heard and Lemley, who have been together for almost four years, focus on supporting small farms that practice sustainable agriculture, as well as humane slaughtering.
“It’s a longevity and responsibility issue for us,” Heard says. “If we’re going to do this, we have to find ways to not make a huge footprint. Otherwise, we’re impacting the very thing that creates the food we’re serving.”
Heard tends an herb garden on the restaurant’s patio. Every day, she hauls buckets and boxes of food scraps home from work to compost and feed her animals.
Additionally, Foreign & Domestic’s menu shifts with the seasons, sometimes adjusting as often as twice a week. For fall, Heard is most inspired by fresh offerings like bitter greens, squash and tomatoes.
Home cooks can imitate her intentions by focusing on Texas-based products, shopping at farmers markets and choosing locally sourced food subscriptions like Johnson’s Backyard Garden and Lettuce.
When dining out, the rising chef especially admires the farm-to-table sensibilities of fellow Austin eateries Dai Due, Lenoir and L’Oca d’Oro.
Heard recommends composting and gardening for families interested in reducing food waste, as well as efficient home-cooking habits. She uses leftover bones and vegetable trimmings for stocks, and later even purees the boiled veggies into a flavorful paste for sauces and soups.
How to Reduce Food Waste at Home
Chef Sarah Heard offers her creative uses for ingredients often otherwise tossed.
• celery leaves: “[They’re] a great addition to salads and can be used as a garnish.”
• old iced tea: “Reduce [it]with sugar and blend with vinegar and oil to make a fun salad dressing.”
• hard cheese rinds: “Use them to enhance the flavor of risotto, farrotto or quinoa.”
• leafy carrot tops: “Chop and combine [them]with vinegar, oil and other herbs to make a carrot-top chimichurri to put on anything from red meat to fish to eggplant.”
• leftover mashed potatoes: “Make them into gnocchi for a whole other meal.”
• coffee grounds: “Dehydrate and add [them]to tart or pie doughs, or red-eye gravy.”
• day-old bread: “Combine [it]with diced components of your vegetable drawer for a great panzanella salad.”
• mushroom stems: “Dehydrate [them]to create a flavor-bomb powder.