The Bon Appétit Blog

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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…

Last week was exceptionally busy outside the office. On Monday, I lectured in a joint undergraduate-MBA evening seminar for University of San Francisco’s sustainable business program on what an environmentally responsible seafood procurement policy would look like and the factors that go into the decision to develop one. I was challenged on a number of points by a young Oregonian whose family is in the pink shrimp farming business which made the hour-and-a-half especially interesting (for me, anyway). On Wednesday I hosted a sustainable seafood cooking demonstration at eBay where executive chef Bob Clark prepared four meals in 15 minutes. Using Alaska Halibut and Mahi-Mahi in two recipes each, he made us all hungry as he talked through what he was doing at the stove. Fortunately, we got to taste the products of his labor immediately afterwards. It was a […]

I’ve just returned from my first meeting as a member of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Round Table. This is a volunteer group of scientist, faculty members, business leaders with a variety of individuals from our industry, all of whom share a  like-minded focus on advocating good nutrition. The Round Table is chaired by Dr. Walter Willett, well respected (and sometimes controversial) icon in the field of nutrition.  He’s been credited with single handedly generating national awareness around the dangers of trans-fatty acid AND changing the way food is being produced and consumed in the US.  This man wow’s me! The Round Table meets periodically to review research findings and to strategize ways to initiate change in the public sector.  I find it very exciting to be a part of this.  Bon Appétit has been a model for […]