Holistic mission means good fare at Herb'n Cafe in Pickerington

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave
Seared Wild Scallop with Bruleed Banana

A year ago, Taylor Carter bought eight apples-four organic and four non-organic. He took a bite of the latter and it tasted like nothing. He put the apple down and let it rest on his nightstand for three weeks. "It didn't brown, it didn't oxidize, it didn't begin to rot. Nothing happened to the apple," Carter says. "At that moment, I realized, 'This is what we're being fed?' "

He took a bite of the organic apple-sweet and juicy-and five minutes later it began to brown.

This informal experiment sums up a lot of what you need to know about Carter's approach at Herb'n Cafe in Pickerington. The 25-year-old chef wants to serve great food that is natural and holistic, and shuns the idea of megafarms and GMOs.

"I truly think that food is medicine. It can heal," he says. "There are too many chefs supporting the wrong corporations and putting the wrong plates in front of people. Everything is cheaper, bigger, faster-it's scary how things are going and how food is being presented in this country. We want to take a small step and create this great sense of food and community."

Carter opened the 1,600-square-foot restaurant in early 2015, with his mom, Terry, and her business partner, Scott Marvin, backing his vision. Thus far, it's paid off as the shopping plaza cafe-a spinoff of Carter's three-year-old food truck with the same name-has been packing in diners hungry for complex salads (like charred peach and chevre with strawberries, candied pecans, crispy bacon and a honey goat-cheese dressing) and grass-fed burgers (including the Pork Jowl and Avocado with crispy jowl, fried onions and guajillo barbecue sauce).

"We wanted to start with a simple concept that people could relate to," says the Columbus Culinary Institute at Bradford School grad. He's managing a scratch kitchen, crafting even basic ingredients like mayonnaise, ketchup, and barbecue sauce. "It's kind of a craft burger and salad joint during lunch time. The cool thing about this place is the menu is always going to change depending on what we can get our hands on."

Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible from respected farms, including Bluescreek Farm Meats, Snowville Creamery and Hirsch Fruit Farm.

Immediate growth can be seen in the addition of dinner service in September. The opening menu, which will rotate regularly, included dishes like lobster ravioli with Sriracha butter, crispy soft-shelled crab with corn and tomato and seared scallops with bruleed bananas-a big hit, Carter says.

"In a dim restaurant like this at night, you put that dish in front of somebody and there's deception to it-you don't know what's the banana and what's the scallop," he says. "When I ate the bruleed banana with the scallop, the natural sweetness of the banana brings out the sweetness of the scallop."

Carter doesn't want to be known as a chef-activist, even though he speaks like one. He's just happy customers seem to be responding to his message. He says: "Food is special to me, food is life, food is love. I just want to present something natural and holistic on a plate."