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Normally we’re enjoying wild California and Oregon salmon this time of year, but urban development, dams, and water diversion for agriculture have contributed to the depletion of Coho and Chinook salmon stocks and made some salmon runs extinct. Salmon faithfully return to the rivers where they were born, making them both highly dependent on specific freshwater areas and susceptible to population crashes due to loss of their habitat. The remaining stocks are more vulnerable to fishing pressure and ocean changes such as warmer sea temperatures. Most of these alterations, I have to point out, are a result of human influences. Researching fine points about fresh versus frozen salmon, I talked to Paul Johnson from Monterey Fish Market this week. Chef, cookbook author, and fishmonger to the finest restaurants in the SF Bay Area, Paul sits on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s […]

I am often asked by reporters if the sustainability movement is "just a west coast thing." When I point to the year round Farm to Fork station at our cafe at American University in Washington, DC, I hear "well, yeah, but that’s the coast too." I then mention the incredible student-run farm at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN and get "yeah, but that’s a progressive school." Well, here’s another example in an unexpected place. The Bon Appetit team at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA has found a network of interested students and faculty to support our initiatives. In order for us to protect our planet, resources, and communities, "sustainability" must cross all lines – geographic, political, racial, and economic. I’m seeing evidence that that’s happening and we at Bon Appetit Management Company couldn’t be more thrilled. Go Georgia! And […]

Seems 30,000 ATLANTIC salmon have escaped from a farm into the PACIFIC ocean. The aquaculture company says it’s not a problem for the wild fish. Hmmm, I wouldn’t want 30,000 of anything moving into my habitat. Talk about an illegal immigration problem. Through our work with Environmental Defense Fund to improve salmon farming, I got a chance to visit open ocean net pen operations run by this very same company. Actually, I have to say, the employees were conscientious and concerned about the environment. It’s just that our views on "acceptable" levels of impact were very different. At Bon Appetit Management Company, our chefs use only wild salmon. Until the aquaculture industry stops farming species not native to the waters they are being raised in (and solves a number of other problems), I think that’s the safest policy for our […]

In more than 400 cafés across the country, Bon Appétit Management Company will be launching our Low Carbon Diet program! At lunchtime, the entire Bon Appétit café will be transformed to illustrate ways our customers can reduce climate change through their food choices. Each station in the café will highlight a principle of the Low Carbon Diet in addition to a low carbon food choice. We also developed a Low Carbon Diet Calculator, a fun and interactive tool that helps illustrate the impact of your food choices–check it out! So far, we’re off to a good start: a front page spread of the Los Angeles Times! Here’s a short video we made for the Low Carbon Diet as well. –Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager

In the Monterey Herald newspaper today, the Bon Appétit team at Monterey Bay Aquarium received well-deserved kudos for their "use of fresh, seasonal, organic and sustainable food items — along with heavy doses of creativity." Several culinary delights that impressed food writer Mike Hale and his "foodie" 16-year old daugther: Not-your-ordinary calamari: "Monterey Bay squid pieces share a panko dredge with Meyer lemon slices and shaved fennel bulb" Colorful, sustainable, flavorful char: "Pan-roasted, tarragon-dusted arctic char (a sustainable alternative to farmed salmon) with golden beet risotto, crisp asparagus, grilled ramps and orange"  Expand-your-seafood-palate shellfish: "Monterey farm-raised abalone with fava bean purée, braised vidalia onions, Meyer lemon and olive oil sorbet" That’s enough to entice any food-lover to stop by for a visit! Add in a beautiful ocean view and great service, Portola Restaurant is a ‘must-experience’ when you’re visiting northern […]

Did you know that the PLU (price look-up) code of produce tells you whether it’s organic or genetically-modified? * The PLU codes on fruit and vegetables contain four numbers (i.e., 4859).* If produce is organic, the PLU code is 5 numbers starting with a 9 (i.e., 94859). * If you see 5 numbers starting with an 8, (i.e., 84859), that means the fruit or vegetable is a GMO (a genetically-modified organism). Of course, you’ll see signs loudly marketing fruits and vegetables as organic so you probably won’t have to examine the PLU to figure that out. However, for those "quiet" GMOs that have found their way into the food system and consequently into our diets, here’s a way to keep them out! – Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager

"And for the category of Most Vegetarian- and Earth-Friendly Corporate Café, the winner is…Yahoo!" While movie fans eagerly await the verdicts of the (possibly telecast) Oscars this year, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) gave a standing ovation to the winners of their 2008 Proggy Awards. For five years now, PETA has recognized companies, leaders, products and organizations demonstrating animal-friendly achievements in 21st century culture and commerce. The Bon Appétit Management Company team at Yahoo! was highly praised for their great food and vegetarian-friendly options: "Yahoo’s various environmental efforts can be seen on Yahoo! Green, but the real measure of the company’s compassion can be tasted at its employee dining hall. The [café] serves more than 6,000 meals per day and features a variety of vegetarian options at each station, including an Asian bowl with Gardein or tofu, […]

Food is a climate change issue. It’s amazing to say those words now and not get the same quizzical looks I got two years ago when I first gave presentations on this subject. More people accept this big idea, but with acceptance is a growing number of odd notions about how the food system does, and does not, contribute to climate change. Here are some of my favorite ‘carbon food myths’ uncovered recently, which I hope will provide readers with some good questions to ask their food providers:  MYTH #1: Food transported in passenger-plane cargoes maximizes the use of a resource that is already there. This sounds logical at first, but it’s totally false. Food transported in planes of any variety add weight. Weight adds fuel use. Fuel use = carbon emissions. There’s no greater carbon emissions in transportation than […]

Nov. 10: Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual conference of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs in Rhode Island. What a delightfully high energy event that was! A wide variety of chefs, farmers, and writers attended my talk on whether climate change is going to redefine what we mean by "sustainable food." Two wonderful Bon Appetit chefs — Preeti Mistry of the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and Mary Soto of American University in Washington DC — joined me and gave practical examples to balance the more theoretical concepts I offered. When I give presentations, I’m always surprised that professionals and students alike assume that discarding disposables — paper plates, styrofoam containers, etc. — are the MOST important environmental issue in a dining hall. The perception of avoiding waste of recyclable materials has really become ingrained since […]

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Politics makes strange bedfellows and even stranger dinner plates. Amidst much controversy, the Farm Bill reached the Senate floor on Monday and created some unusual alliances. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it, “Seldom in Washington do such coalitions develop that unite the Bush White House and the group Environmental Defense on one side, and on the other, Senate Democrats and Republicans who have set aside their ideological hostilities to preserve and expand crop subsidies for a minority of wealthy farmers.” Michael Pollan’s op-ed in the New York Times, Weed It and Reap, does a great job explaining the state of the current bill and how “some nutritious crumbs” have been added “to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.” A little money for food stamps and “specialty crops” and we’re supposed to forget that the […]