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The bite  of sweetness from the raw "just picked" corn was a welcomed balance to the bitter black coffee I was drinking.  It is 7 AM  in Ann Harbor, Michigan (4 am Pacific Time, the zone I’m still on) and I am tasting my way through the farmer’s market with a few peers.  We are here for a round table meeting of a small group called the National Supply and Value Chain Network. But some of us couldn’t help starting our day chatting with farmer’s and literally enjoying the fruits of their labor. A reminder that at the end of day, the goal of our Network is to bring  back and preserve the flavors of the American family farm. I am at this meeting representing Bon Appétit, as a model of what is possible in the business world when it […]

With 400 cafes and restaurants across the country, Bon Appétit chefs must source a significant volume of local foods from sustainable farms to feed our guests every day. As joyfully as we approach this task, the current American agricultural system is unfortunately designed to make our jobs much harder. Despite the recent boom in sustainable and organic foods, it is no secret that small local farms and artisans who rely on them often struggle to keep their farms alive and make a decent living from the land; therefore, for a company such as ours, and for millions of Americans, access to an abundant supply of local foods remains a challenge. Why is this so? Farm subsidies are almost entirely dedicated to industrial farming, even as more and more chefs and consumers shift their purchasing preferences to foods grown in their […]

Two articles I read yesterday morning were both interesting yet concerning: 1. According to a British study released this morning, an estimated 3,200 deaths from cardiovascular disease could be prevented with a "carefully targeted fat tax" on certain foods. On average, this would increase weekly household food expenditure by 3-4%. The researchers from Oxford University gave the examples of tobacco and alcohol arguing that taxing these items effectively reduced consumption and led to improved public health.  The science is there: too much salt and too much fat in your diet can contribute to heart disease. The obstacle is trying to get people to change their behavior and eating habits, which is much easier said than done. Tobacco and alcohol are not essential to life; food is. Will taxing "bad" food encourage people to eat less of it? This isn’t the […]

Last winter, I spent months researching the Low Carbon Diet program. I read scientific journals, participated in listservs, and interviewed scientists. While I enjoyed my work then, I’m finding greater satisfaction now. Over the past month, I’ve gone to regional meetings of Bon Appetit chefs and managers to explain how food choices contribute to global warming and what we’re planning to do about it. I’ve got two more meetings to go. With an hour-long presentation, I’ve probably numbed many people, but the comments I’ve gotten afterwards are fascinating. Here are three: I never realized that fresh seafood would be more energy-intensive than frozen seafood (Portland, OR). I’ll never look at a banana the same way again (Los Angeles). I’m planning to grow all my unit’s romaine and onions on campus next year (Minneapolis). Our primary goal in announcing a Low […]

I recently read an article written by a mother complaining that we are raising a generation of kids that can only find happiness indoors, in front of their TVs or computer games.  Her own kids pouted and resisted when she tried to take them on an outdoor nature trip. You know what? My heart didn’t go out to her or any of the other parents with the same complaints about their kids…where were you when they were developing those habits? OK…off my soapbox.  But I mention this because it is related to another story (blog) I came across recently.  A much more promising story about our younger generation. The blog was from STOGROW farm (St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works,) a student run community initiative at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. We happen to run the food program on […]

I came across this brief mention of Bon Appétit Management Company in a graduation speech given at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and I couldn’t help but feel like a parent sitting in the audience, humble and proud.  Dr. Jim Farrell, a professor of history and American Studies at St. Olaf, encouraged the students to “learn the beauty of language, learn the moral ecology of everyday life,” and he also said: “I hope you’re learning how small decisions make a big difference. Too often, we opt out of a good cause or a good action by saying that ‘it’s no big deal.’ But many of our most pressing problems are the product of billions of decisions that are no big deal. Three times a day, in Stav Hall, Bon Appétit has also been teaching you how small decisions make a […]

Last week I had the enchanting experience of living a culinary dream.  I was invited to join a group of US food service delegates to explore Singapore and it’s culture of foods.  This mission was hosted by IE Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade. Bon Appétit was asked to participate because of our reputation for good food and our philosophy to be authentic. What a gig! For an entire week, I got to taste delectable foods from the four corners of Asia: Roti prata with vegetable curry; chili crab; bee hoon goren; satays served with sauce after sauce after sauce. It didn’t take the delegates long to understand that food is a deep obsession with Singaporeans.  And to fully appreciate the a multi-ethnic aspect of Singaporean citizens full of hospitality and endless smiles. My favorite stops: the half […]

When we announced Bon Appetit Management Company’s new approach to curbing climate change, the Low Carbon Diet, of course we hoped that people would take notice. We were thrilled, however, with the wide range of coverage that the story garnered. Prior to our announcement, the message that food choices have a great impact on climate change had not been put forward in the mainstream media. There has been plenty of instructions to consumers to change light bulbs and drive less but not much attention to the food choices we make everyday. Thankfully the Low Carbon Diet is changing that discussion. In addition to great pieces on CNN’s In the Money and CNN Radio, the Low Carbon Diet was featured in newspapers, blogs, and TV shows around the country… Carol Ness of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests guests should ask for […]

I am standing in front of 250 food service professionals as part of a panel to educate on sustainability in the food supply chain. I represent Bon Appétit as a successful model of what is possible to do under this banner. The event, sponsored by the Society of Food Service Management, is called “Critical Issues in Food Service." I  am here with the pre-conceived expectation that based on this theme, participants would  have a deep sense of wanting to know, of needing to absorb and of being anxious to be inspired.  As I get deeper into my presentation I have this “giss”, this gut feeling that most listeners are there for no other reason but because they have to be. They are there as a reaction to a growing mainstream demand for ethical food and because  their customers are asking […]

We launched our Low Carbon Diet this week, a program designed to raise awareness of the connection between food and climate change. More people are learning about "food miles" — the long-distance transport of food — but the Low Carbon Diet is much more than about buying local food. It’s about radically reducing food waste, choosing to eat less beef and cheese, and ratcheting down the ‘carbon calories’ that are abundant in our daily food choices by becoming aware of what they are. When we began trying to define what the next frontier would be for sustainable food 18 months ago, we saw how much petroleum underlined food system operations. Refining oil and burning fossil fuels are well-known greenhouse gas emitters. But then we learned more about methane emissions — over 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon […]