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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 […]

I’ve been traveling more than not since the start of 2007. By noon on most days, I’ve marvelled at prepackaged sandwiches. Their similarity within a geographic area, not their variety, is striking. Large slabs of cheese tend to define "vegetarian" options (as if cheese were a vegetable!). Humbly, I admit, living on the west coast, the further east I’ve gone the more interesting the selections I’ve found. London has fierce competition for lunchtime business: at least four ever-present chains offer multiple varieties of sandwiches using free range eggs, local cheeses (!), and dark green leafy salad greens such as arugola ("rocket" in British English). Many products are organic including the whole wheat bread slices. Grilled panini, hot baguettes and cornish pasties offer warm options. New York, with its deli tradition, offers pastrami as well as chicken, but London-chain sandwiches, California-style […]

Last week I was visiting our team at Best Buy, in Minneapolis MN.  During my walk thru of the servery with Sous Chef Erik, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful coloring on the pork tenderloin being carved ,to be served on a tossed salad. I learned that pork came from a small local farmer.  While I am not a big pork eater, I had to taste. Yum! And I really should have been surprised but I couldn’t help pushing my plate in front of my peers for them to enjoy bite of this succulent food. Once again a testament to the wonderful flavors local farmers can bring to our plates. That small farmer happened to be delivering his weekly stock that day and we had a chance to have a nice chat.  Our team buys the entire animals from […]

As a member of the Genetic Engineering (GE) Policy Alliance, Bon Appetit is taking a stand and signing a letter of support for Assembly Bill 541, The Food and Farm Protection Act (Download AB_541_support letter.pdf).  Authored by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (6th AD), this bill would establish California’s only state laws related to genetic engineering in agriculture and protect California farmers, consumers, and the food supply. AB 541 protects California farmers and the food supply in four ways: Establishes the right of farmers and landowners to compensation for economic losses due to genetic contamination of their crops. Protects farmers from being sued by a GE manufacturer if their crop is contaminated by that company’s GE product. Establishes a county-level GE crop notification process so that farmers can trace contamination to the GE manufacturer. Protects the food supply by prohibiting the open-field […]