The Bon Appétit Blog

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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 […]

Imagine going to see your physician for an annual checkup, during which you find out you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and need to lose 20 pounds because you’re overweight (according to your BMI or body mass index).  Your physician writes you a prescription for an antihypertensive, atorvatstatin and…cooking lessons?? Integrating teaching kitchens into hospitals was the overarching vision of the "Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives" conference I attended last weekend.  Organized by Harvard Medical School and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, it was a preliminary gathering of physicians, dietitians/nutritionists, food service directors and culinary professionals to discuss ways to combat the current obesity epidemic of this country. This was an interesting concept because I agree that people are becoming more and more detached from food.  So much of the food and drink we consume are pre-prepared or […]

I have been brewing on an issue for a while and I feel the urge to express it.  At the peak of the E.Coli outbreak, reports from the FDA insinuated a farm in transition to organic as the source. As if organic methods was the real issue.  The key word here is in "transition" but they failed to include from conventional.  If anything, responsible farmers will tell you that e.Coli cannot exist in soil that is alive with natural organic bacteria. It just bugs me that there a few pests out there, influenced by special interest groups, who will use the power of their position in the media to "insinuate"  to their benefit. Of course, at the cost of smaller responsible organic farmers. In the CA legislature, there a movement that will highly regulate the production of  leafy greens requiring […]

At Bon Appetit Management Company we are huge fans of the site Sustainable Table. It’s a great place to learn about food issues and find out how to get involved with the sustainability movement. So, we were thrilled to read a recent entry on their blog noting our announcement about natural beef. As of March, 2007, all of the hamburgers we serve in our 400 cafes will be made from 100% "natural" beef. While there is no strong legal definition of "natural," our suppliers have committed to raising their cattle with: No antibiotics (ever) No added growth hormones (ever) No animal byproducts in feed (ever) Humane treatment For more details on our announcement, read the full press release. Thanks to the Sustainable Table team for the "shout out"! – Maisie Greenawalt, Director of Communications & Strategic Initiatives

I make a concerted to effort to visit as many of our units as I possibly can within my schedule.  I do this mostly to touch people that work hard everyday to realize our Dream.  At the same time, these trips allow me to stay in touch with who we really are in day to day operations. I gives me a bit of grounding and a lot of connection to our guests.   Very often on my visits, I get a glimpse of the future for Bon Appétit. Our entrepreneurial culture is such that the seeds for what we become are often planted at the unit levels by some of our most passionate people. I was in Portland this week and participated in a chef meeting with a pig rancher looking  for an outlet for  "bellies" and other cuts. Six weeks […]

I have a few culinary heroes in my life…but one my most respected fellows in our food system is not a chef. First and foremost he is a Midwestern farmer….that holds an impressive list of academic appointments and accomplishments, including being recognized a along time leader in sustainable agriculture. His name is Fred Kirschenmann and if I could, I would have a poster of him in my office.  His vision to transform the US agricultural landscape has impressed me since the day I read his collaborative white paper called Why Worry About the Agriculture in the Middle? Its a somewhat complex analysis of the state of our family farms, but sufficient to say that these mid size farms are disappearing at such an alarming rate that they are expected to vanish within 10 years! They are the backbone of a […]

Sometimes it’s hard to know how "real" your vision can become  in the reality of day to day operations.  This January we introduced a Healthy Cooking Initiative that further changes the way we produce food in our kitchens so that healthier options are a mainstream offering in our cafes. Today, our guests do not have to search for a healthier choices.  They will find more deep color greens at every station; more complex carbs; more whole grains; more low fat choices; more vegetarian choices…at every station.We have eliminated a majority of trans fats, in some units up to 100% and we are encouraging our guest to consume less processed sugars. Is it working? Today I am in Chicago, the capital of the Midwest known for its love of less than healthy big portion steak and potatoes.  There we some hesitations […]

Yesterday I presented to a small group  of people interested in having us do their food service.  They are seemingly a very vibrant culture, deeply interested in sustainability issues including minimizing waste and encouraging composting. A good match for us. I am telling them about the biodegradable containers we use in some of our cafes, including a "clear plastic-like" series of boxes and drinking cups made from PLA.  This is a green-house gas neutral polymer made from corn that is bio-degradable.  From a quiet corner of the room came a loud and clear question belonging to a young man named Jesse: "Is this cup GMO free?" Wow, hadn’t expected that question from this group. The answer was "no". But this led to a discussion about some of the contradictions we sometimes face at Bon Appetit with sustainability issues.  Does it […]