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A reporter I worked with once complained that, whenever he did a story about food, there was always something “new” he wasn’t supposed to eat. With the launch of sustainable sushi pocket guides this month, sushi is now coming under serious scrutiny. Suddenly, there are “new” items on the conscientious eater’s list to avoid. The problem with sushi is that most, by volume, is limited to shrimp, tuna, salmon and eel. You might think twice about eating salmon sushi if you know there’s no such thing as sustainably-raised farmed salmon (most salmon, sake, and its roe, ikura, is farmed salmon). And rare is a sushi meal without tuna of some kind. Half of the sushi vendors we surveyed recently were using a sustainable form of tuna; the other fifty percent were not. If you use the sushi guides, they can […]

With so much going on in the financial world these days, I couldn’t help but to think about how it all related to my role here as the newest member of the Bon Appétit Management Company team. As an analyst, my goal will be to measure the successes for all of our sustainable initiatives such as our Low Carbon Diet and Farm to Fork programs. I’ve quickly learned that within the sustainable movement, there is a thin line between greenwashing and true success, and to have credible data requires transparency. The models and systems you design to collect and analyze the data are in some cases even more important than the assumptions you can make with the results. This practice of manipulating data to create favorable headlines had been running rampant on Wall Street, which in some ways is very […]

I have to admit when I saw the headline University serves carbon-neutral lettuce" in the National Restaurant Association Smartbrief, I was dubious. After hearing many claims of carbon-neutrality that are achieved through offsets or even, the latest trend, products being pitched as carbon-negative, my antennae went up. I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I read the details. According the story in the local paper, Colorado State University really is serving carbon-neutral lettuce. The lettuce is grown in unheated greenhouses using organic compost and then transported to the cafe by bicycle. There are no fossil fuels used in the process. Later this month, they anticipate having to heat the greenhouse, no longer making the lettuce carbon neutral, so they will shut down the program, source lettuce elsewhere and restart when the weather warms up again. Right now they are only producing […]

I was invited to give a series of lectures at Duke and Berkeley last week on the connection between food and climate change. Audiences were a mix of faculty, students and community members. Each time, the questions were wide-ranging but I’ve been thinking most about one. I challenged the notion of describing some food or diets as ‘vegetarian’ and an undergraduate called me on it. Along with eating appropriate portions and reducing foodwaste, eating less meat and cheese are the most important steps a climate-conscious eater can take. Why not call out ‘vegetarian’ options then? Here’s my logic – what do you think? With some ethnic exceptions, vegetarian options often mean “absence of meat.” Roasted vegetables are rarely at the center of a ‘veggie burrito.’ In East Asian eateries, “vegetarian” could be translated as “with tofu” – bowing to the […]

Last night Governor Schwarzenegger passed a bill (SB 1420) that will require chain restaurants in California to post calorie information on their menus and menu boards by 2011. All chains with 20 or more locations must offer information about calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium content for each menu item. Beginning July 1, 2009, they will be required to have brochures with this nutrient breakdown for customers who request it. So far this type of legislation has been enacted in cities (including New York, Seattle and San Francisco) and counties nationwide, but this is the first statewide mandate of nutrition labeling. Consumer groups and health organizations may be rejoicing that this is a landmark step towards the fight against obesity. However, many health professionals will agree that this is by no means the magic bullet. We all know that obesity […]

Today was our fourth annual Eat Local Challenge – an event when all Bon Appetit cafes across the country make a meal completely of local ingredients. When we unveiled the Eat Local Challenge program in 2005, it was with some trepidation. Bon Appétit’s philosophy has always been to empower our chefs and managers to do what’s best for their guests and clients. We never send out menus from “corporate” or tell our people what to celebrate. The Eat Local Challenge marked a change in that every Bon Appétit café was asked to hold a similar event on the same day. At headquarters, much discussion took place around the question of whether this would be perceived as contrary to our core philosophy. It quickly became clear that our worries were unwarranted as chefs and managers around the country took the loose […]

Paul’s entry below does a great job of laying out the facts. The Humane Society of the United States has also partnered with Free Range Studios to create a fun way to educate voters about this groundbreaking proposition. Check out Uncaged. – Maisie Greenawalt, Vice President PS – I’m also a huge fan of the Meatrix. Be sure to watch all three installments.

We’re proud to welcome Paul Shapiro, senior director of The Humane Society of theUnited States’ factory farming campaign, as today’s guest blogger. The plight of the animals we raise for food in this country rarely enters the forefront of our societal consciousness, but Californians are now learning a whole lot more about what these animals go through. That’s because they’ll soon cast their ballots on Prop 2—the Standards for Confining Farm Animals initiative—a measure endorsed by Bon Appetit Management Co., the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Food Safety, United Farm Workers, the Consumer Federation of America, and authors such as Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. This moderate measure merely seeks to provide certain farm animals with enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs. It really is that basic. Unfortunately, the […]

Bon Appetit Management Company CEO Fedele Bauccio recently completed two years on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. It was a moving experience that very much affected the way Fedele sees our food system. Each time he visited an animal production facility, he’d return to the office with a list of directives for us and questions to ask our suppliers. We haven’t been able to address all the issues he’s raised but we’re on an interesting and challenging road thanks to Fedele’s leadership. One of Fedele’s strongest messages to the Commission was that they needed to get the information into the hands of the consumers. In an attempt to just that, the Pew Environmental Group has launched a website supporting the campaign to restrict antibiotic use in animal agriculture. There is a link to the Commission’s website and […]

I spent Monday and Tuesday in New York City at a conference entitled Carbon Footprinting & the Supply Chain. I was asked to speak on “engaging consumers.” While I have been getting pickier and pickier about accepting speaking gigs, simply due to a lack of time, I accepted this opportunity because I was intrigued by the audience mix – representatives from everything from ConAgra to the World Bank, Nike to the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture. The two day session was packed with presentations – I counted 43! Here are some of the tidbits that struck me as worth writing down: Cadbury carbon footprinted their Diary Milk bar – 70% of the emissions are from the cows. They (Cadbury, not the cows) estimate that packaging accounts for only 1% of emissions Nancy Hirshberg from Stonyfield Farm says Futerra’s Greenwash Guide […]