A Newcomer’s Eating Tour of Omaha
The Grey Plume | This sleek, fine‐dining establishment in Omaha’s Midtown Crossing has helped put Omaha on the national culinary map with its warm hospitality and artfully imaginative contemporary cuisine. Chef‐owner Clayton Chapman brings a seasonal community‐driven approach to food by working with local farmers to source ingredients and collaborating with local artists to make dishware and glasses. Though the menu changes frequently, one excellent mainstay is the Whole Roasted Blue Valley Steelhead Trout, served with creme fraiche spatzle. The charcuterie board is a mosaic of house‐cured meats, including duck prosciutto, 'nduja and pork heart pastrami, as well as local cheeses. Nebraska takes its beef seriously, and The Grey Plume doesn’t disappoint: The beef tartare and the Davey Road Ranch organic beef prepared four ways (short rib, brisket, sausage and collared steak) are exceptional ways to experience the state’s best meat.
Local Boy Makes Good | Betsy Andrews
This past December at the Grey Plume in Omaha, chef-owner Clayton Chapman set his mise en place in front of me. It was a thing to behold. Diverse and vibrant with all sorts of Midwest fruits and vegetables, it contained the building blocks for the dishes I would eat for dinner: delicate buttermilk gnocchi topped with caramelized Bartlett pears, preserved lemon peel, micro basil, and tart tomato powder; a pizzette chockablock with shiitake mushrooms, cold-smoked cauliflower, pickled ramps, persimmons, and local honey; and a colorful salad of finely shaved beets, watermelon radishes, turnips, and carrot and celery curls. Fantastic. The best part? The Grey Plume, elegantly dressed in recycled barn wood and wine bottles, is ardently sustainable and locavore through and through, with 90 percent of its ingredients hailing from nearby. How, then, did the chef procure such lustrous produce in midwinter, I wondered. Imbued with a Nebraskan's work ethic and aversion to waste, Chapman, 27, preserves some 3,000 jars of peak produce in his tiny kitchen each year. He and his staff raise microgreens under grow lamps, churn butter, and whip ricotta with the buttermilk, and they make the most of each season. In summer, meaty steelhead trout from an aqua farm housed in former hog barns is lacquered with a fish jus glaze and served with tangy cherry tomatoes, barely cooked carrots, and compressed cucumber; come cooler weather, those tomatoes are oven-dried, the carrots pureed, and foraged oyster mushrooms and winter spinach swapped in for the cukes. Both versions are wonderful. In 2010, the Green Restaurant Association named the Grey Plume the greenest dining establishment in the country. That may be true, but it's also just damned good.
Good Food Awards
First Place Sauerkraut- Provisions by The Grey Plume
The Good Food Foundation exists to celebrate, connect, empower and leverage the passionate and engaged, yet often overlooked, players in the food system who are driving towards tasty, authentic and responsible food in order to humanize and reform our American food culture.
Through five key programs – the Good Food Awards, Guild, Merchants Alliance, Mercantile and Fund – we build widespread support for the growers, ranchers, makers and merchants stubbornly swimming upstream to create and share the kind of food we all want to eat: tasty, authentic and responsible.
Butchering, Curing, and More in an Omaha Restaurant | Lisa Weisstuch
Every time the waiter comes to your table at the elegant, laid-back The Grey Plume, he’ll tell your party about yet another item that the kitchen has produced: the butter churned in-house, the ricotta-style buttermilk cheese made here, the prosciutto cured for up to 24 months, the sourdough rye baked in the kitchen.
In most cities these days, “locavore” references are worn like badges of honor. But in Nebraska, where farms and ranches occupy 93 percent of the land, “locavore” may as well be axiomatic. There’s far more to the Cornhusker State’s ecosystem than corn and hogs.
Clayton Chapman has become something of a brand steward for Omaha’s bounty, artists, and green designers. After a stint at the highly acclaimed Tru in Chicago and travels through Europe, the native son opted to return home to open The Grey Plume in 2010. Since then, accolades have poured in, including two James Beard nominations for Rising Star Chef.
Butchering, curing, churning, and canning is broadcast to diners, as witnessed by the waiter’s constant plugs for everything homemade. What’s less obvious is that Chapman, 27, puts the same care and respect into the physical building. The restaurant’s energy management system is designed to run on kitchen heat and its exhaust output; dining room floors were assembled from barn wood; the kitchen has no walk-in fridge because deliveries arrive daily, and whole animals are butchered and cooked right away. The kitchen has small fridges for short-term storage for cream and butter.
The resourcefulness and wholesomeness are evident in other ways. One hundred fifty bread plates were made from 1,500 wine bottles by local artist Ed Fennel. Details like this helped earn The Grey Plume the distinction of greenest, most sustainable restaurant in the United States from the Green Restaurant Association.
The chef-owner has a lot on his plate, so to speak. “Life is fast-paced. It has to be in order to get everything accomplished in a day,” says Chapman, who has a farmboy charm. He grew up in the city until high school, when his family moved to 4 acres of farmland, and gardening became part of the daily routine. “Having a connection to the land and knowing what you’re eating takes you back to core values, to the bare necessities in a world fast-paced, technology driven. It’s the small things that make you able to enjoy and appreciate eating at a level that’s fun to share with others.”
The high-ceilinged dining room is sparse but warm. There’s a coziness that belies the menu’s extravagance. And you get the feeling they want it that way. It suits the unaffected playfulness of the waiter when he swings by to deliver the entrees. “All the pin bones have been removed, the spine’s intact,” he says of day-boat halibut, which Chapman procures through Sea to Table, a national program that provides restaurants with sustainable seafood. The fish arrives with seasonal sides, like a medley of fava beans, smoked blood orange, and black trumpet mushrooms. “You can fillet it along the side — either side. Or you could also just dig in, really. There’s no wrong way to eat it. The cheeks are like little pearls of delicious. So, who’s gonna be the first stabber?”
There’s a haiku-like charm in the succinct descriptions of each plate. Consider agnolotti with fiddleheads, celery root, pixie tangerine, Dutch Girl Creamery Lady Jane, a French-style, ripe goat cheese made in Lincoln, Neb.; Waygu beef, pastrami, potato, maitake mushroom, Thumbelina carrots. It’s pleasantly disorienting to eat here knowing that you’re in a state synonymous with steak.
Grey Plume takes its first name from Chapman’s son’s middle name; plume is a reference to “a feather in wing and dream taking flight,” he explains.
That dream will reach new heights in the spring, when he opens The Grey Plume Provision across from the restaurant, which will sell products prepared in the restaurant kitchen, from marmalades and preserves to house-roasted coffees. And there will be an online store, giving the nation a chance to sample Nebraska’s bounty.
James Beard Awards
The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.
James Beard Foundation | Semifinalist, Rising Star Chef of the Year 2011
James Beard Foundation | Semifinalist, Rising Star Chef of the Year 2012
James Beard Foundation | Semifinalist, Best Chefs in America 2013
James Beard Foundation | Semifinalist, Best Chefs in America 2014
James Beard Foundation | Semifinalist, Best Chefs in America 2015
Midwest Food Stories
Sourcing The Grey Plume
The Washington Post
You’re Going Where? Omaha | Andrea Sachs
At The Grey Plume, Clayton Chapman is fidgeting at the farm-to-table restaurant. The chef/owner wants to make his menu more Nebraska and less every place else. To reduce imports, and waste, the staff creates its own herbal liquors, colas and tonics as well as condiments, jams, bitters and charcuterie. Single ingredients, such as celery, will live nine lives as, say, a puree, pickled root, shaved ribbons, garnish and aioli. “The constraints can really drive creativity,” Megan Malone, the marketing director, said over a glass of house chartreuse and heirloom popcorn served in a bowl made of Missouri River clay. However, “constraint” does not translate to simple and spare. Case in point, the duck-fat doughnuts.
The Most Popular Restaurant in Every State | Nebraska: The Grey Plume
Wüsthof | Defining the Edgë Campaign
featuring Chef Clayton Chapman
Having begun his culinary career at the tender age of 14, Clayton Chapman’s kitchen artistry continues to know no bounds. Multiple awards and James Beard nominations later, Chef Chapman continues to garner national attention for his artistic presentations and fine American cuisine. His restaurant, The Grey Plume, located in the heart of Omaha, Nebraska, has become a local mainstay known for its unwavering commitment to locally-sourced ingredients. Here Clayton leads a kitchen staff of young guns that all share the same passion -- to elevate the art of cooking.