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I’m an adventurous eater always in search of new preparations I can try to imitate. Show me something I haven’t had before, and I’ll usually opt for it. Rarely do I find what I seek in a San Francisco taqueria. I get so bored with "vegetarian burritos" that consist of "Spanish" rice, mushy pinto beans, tasteless shredded cheese, "fresh" tomato salsa and shredded iceberg lettuce (no matter what the season). Who took actual "vegetables" out of "vegetarian" tacos? And why should salsa be defined by degrees of heat rather than by flavor? With memories of a few great casual Mexican meals I’ve had (a grilled vegetable burrito in Livermore, CA of all places but, then, why not?, a fresh salsa bar with 18 varieties in Davis, CA, and a dish of grilled corn, heirloom beans and tomatoes, all fresh from […]

Ever since Director of Culinary Support & Development Marc Zammit and I saw the film the Future of Food, we’ve been discussing how Bon Appetit can take a stand on genetically engineered food. Deborah Koons Garcia’s documentary really opened my eyes to the environmental devastation being caused by GMOs as well as the potential health consequences and how far seed companies have gone to “protect” their patented material. Marc and I were both outraged by the way farmers are being treated and varietals are being lost forever. However, sadly, without labeling, it is almost impossible to know if products we purchase are made with GE plants. Bon Appetit’s made from scratch cooking philosophy insulates us somewhat as we have control over most of the ingredients we use but it seems soy protein and corn syrup have found their way into […]

In the somewhat big business model that Bon Appétit works in ,  we value relationships with suppliers as a true partnership. Especially with the smaller, local, non-corporate types like our farmers, ranchers and artisans.  The cultures are very different and we work hard at understanding each other.  We forgive when them the strawberries come in a bit over-ripe or the greens a little dirtier then usual. They understand when we get a little huffy about late deliveries. We are grateful when a farmer calls at the last minute to tell us they are sitting on 500 cases of beautifully sweet ripe peaches  that need to move.   We believe we’re getting something special and we act quickly to create a region wide promotion.  They are grateful when we send our managers to the orchards to pick up and deliver the peaches […]

The community of people who care about our food supply is growing by leaps and bounds. I think we are approaching an important "tipping point." Over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to two groups of people who one might not traditionally think of as food activists. The first was Net Impact – MBA students and professionals interested in using the power of business to make a positive net social, environmental, and economic impact. It was refreshing to hear traditional business people ask questions about transparency, CSR reporting, and sustainability as a business differentiator. I spoke on a panel entitled "The Future of CSR" alongside representatives from Starbucks and Office Depot. Then, this past weekend I gave the keynote at the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in Kansas City. What an interesting and inspiring group of […]

Today’s New York Times includes a special section on small businesses with a cover story on companies involved in local food. The writer, Kim Severson, was a food writer in San Francisco for years and crossed paths with Bon Appetit many times. I’ve heard her speak and always been impressed with her knowledge about food related issues and food politics. We were thrilled to be included in her story "Why Roots Matter More." She does a nice job connecting the recent spinach scare to the importance of buying local food.

I have in my office a stack of #10 canned green beans. Almost every time Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio walks by, I get a somewhat of a humorous pestering as to “why does my culinary director have canned foods in his office. It’s not us!” But, these cans intrigue me. The beans are grown sustainably on family farms in Willamette, Oregon. The Food Alliance Certified label is pronominally displayed next to the farmer’s name. The producers speak to wildlife conservation and an equitable workplace. To me this sounds like us. It talks to extending our local Farm to Fork season. It talks to sustaining small family farms by encouraging them to process their harvest and expend their markets. It talks to minimizing the carbon footprint by purchasing items that are produced nearby in the off season. But….it doesn’t talk […]

In a large unheated shed with two rotating fans and a few dim fluorescent lights, Bob Calala runs Ohio’s only shrimp nursery, 20 miles west of Oberlin amid corn fields, red barns and vast expanses of flat land. For years this area has been hog territory; now, family farmers are growing more shrimp and fewer hogs. The nursery I visited on Saturday had three tanks that reminded me of above-ground backyard swimming pools but instead of children they contain baby shrimp – 600,000 at the start of the growing process. A 1.5hp pump, powered by French fry oil, blows air into the tanks to circulate the water. The shrimp are fed a compound that is 28% protein, only a small fraction of which is fishmeal, so the toll on ocean resources is small. Within a month, the shrimp double in […]

Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio serves on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. The group met in San Francisco last week and Director of Culinary Support & Development Marc Zammit and I had the opportunity to present. The subject of our talk was the barriers to "sustainability" for large food service companies. Marc explained the cultural commitment Bon Appetit has made to sustainability as well as how having a skilled culinary team in every cafe is crucial to our success. We then discussed sourcing, seasonality, complexity and financial adjustments as challenges other companies may face when trying to go "green." Here is a pdf of our PowerPoint…  Download pew_commission_challenges.pdf After the meeting, the group dined at Acme Chophouse, our restaurant at AT&T Park that we run in partnership with Traci Des Jardins. Bill Niman of Niman Ranch, also […]

Minneapolis’s City Pages published a review of our restaurant Cue at the Guthrie Theater that is one of the most interesting restaurant reviews I’ve ever read. Not only does author Dara Moskowitz critique Chef Lenny Russo’s food, she touches on the organic vs. local debate and the history of the Guthrie in Minneapolis.

The cover story of today’s Washington Post business section is a great story entitled "A Growing Trend: Small, Local and Organic: Popularity of Farmers Markets, Natural Grocery Stores Helps Cultivate a Rise in Niche Farms" The piece mentions several Bon Appetit accounts including American University, Gallaudet University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Georgetown University Law Center. Bon Appetit supplier Brett Grohsgal (Even’ Star Organic Farm) is quoted along with Georgetown Law General Manager Kimberly Triplett who describes the effort she put forth to build a relationship with Brett. Here’s a photo of her trip to Brett’s farm…