Once part of Chicago’s bustling restaurant scene, Jeremy Storey flew the coop to start a free-range chicken haven on John’s Island
It started with a pheasant. About seven years ago, Jeremy Storey was working the front of the house at Alinea, a three-Michelin-star-winning restaurant in Chicago. Alinea’s executive chef, Grant Achatz, was open to experimenting, and Storey had an idea: serving the homegrown game bird. “I brought one in, and he loved it,” Storey recalls. That fall, a dish of pheasant served with burning oak leaves was born.
The experiment reminded Storey, an Indiana native, of his passion for farming and the outdoors. In fourth grade, he built a chicken coop with his father. The young farmer later fell in love with cooking, working in kitchens from New York to Chicago. But with his culinary success came sleepless nights, long commutes, and time away from his wife, Alison. “Eventually, I despised cooking,” Storey says. “It took over my life.”
So he eyed Charleston, a fresh-aired place to which he and Alison agreed to someday escape. When the couple’s first son, Wyatt, turned one in 2014, they left bustling Chicago for a quiet John’s Island farm. Storey convinced Johnny Rolfe, his coworker at Alinea, to come too, and they hatched a plan to raise free-range chickens and sell the eggs and meat.
Storey Farms started with just 500 chickens. Today, the farm hosts around 3,000 happy birds, raised on a diet of alfalfa and regular exercise.
“Charleston, it turned out, is one of the best cities for local farmers,” Storey says. He went door-to-door to restaurants, successfully selling eggs and meat. Storey’s culinary cred proved helpful: “I knew what chefs wanted,” he notes. The farm’s top-tier clients now include FIG, High Cotton, McCrady’s, Macintosh, Husk, and Poogan’s Porch. And diners eat a lot of eggs: Poogan’s Porch alone orders around 200 dozen a week.
Storey Farms also sells at farmers markets on John’s Island and Folly Beach, as well as at The Daily and Meathouse Butcher Shop. Customers sometimes ask why free-range chicken products are different than commercial varieties. “If a chicken has a good life, it shows in the quality of the product,” Storey says. “A happy chicken just tastes better.”
photographs courtesy of (pheasant dish) Alinea/ Lara Kastner