Please Pass the (Local, Homemade) Salt

Bon Appétit Management Company chefs embark on a treasure hunt for the best locally grown lunch makings

Palo Alto, Calif. (September 5, 2006) -All of a sudden, it’s cool to care where your food comes from. But how easy is it to eat local when you’re cooking lunch for 5,000? In the Midwest? In October? Creating an entirely local meal can be a struggle, even for professional chefs. But as 400 Bon Appétit Management Company chefs from across the nation prepare for the second annual Eat Local Challenge, they are discovering that eating local is less a struggle than a treasure hunt.

On October 3rd, 400 Bon Appétit restaurants and cafés across the country will serve a lunch made entirely of ingredients from within a 150 mile radius of each kitchen. Chefs in 29 states will tackle culinary conundrums like: Where can I find yeast for my sourdough bread? Corn for corn syrup isn’t locally grown, so what can I serve instead of soda? How in the world do I make my own salt?

Bon Appétit Management Company, an onsite custom restaurant company for corporations, colleges and universities, and specialty venues, launched the Eat Local Challenge in 2005 to raise awareness about where the food on our plates comes from, about the importance of local versus organic, and about the impact of ‘food miles’ -the distance food travels from the farm to the dining table.

“By the time you raise a fork to your mouth, your food may have traveled 2,000 miles,” said CEO Fedele Bauccio. “The preservation and transportation methods necessary for such a journey use an enormous amount of fuel, damage the environment, and strip food of its flavor.”

As the Challenge draws nearer, chefs are tearing apart the countryside in search of local food treasures. Oregon chefs are negotiating with a local bakery to supply specially-made, all local rustic white and wheat bread for sandwiches. In northern California, chefs are hot on the trail of short-harvest Gravenstein apples – an aromatic and extremely delicate fruit that will become local apple juice for as many cafés as possible. And in Ohio, the search is on for local shrimp farmers! That’s right, Midwestern crustaceans!

Farmers around the nation are also gearing up for the challenge. For many, it will be the beginning of a long-standing relationship with Bon Appétit; one that offers economic stability year-round -most importantly during the harsh winter months. For some farmers, Bon Appétit purchases account for as much as 25 percent of their farm revenue. Guy McKay of Butterbrook Organic Farm, which supplies produce to Emmanuel College in Boston, relies on Bon Appétit to supplement his sales at farmers’ markets.

“Local farms should be considered a treasure,” said McKay. “More and more people are becoming educated about the difference between a local farmer and a large scale conventional farmer. Still, if there is to be a bright future for small farms, we will need to have the support of companies like Bon Appétit.”

Bon Appétit Management Company has been a proponent of sustainably sourced foods since 1999, when Bauccio issued a mandate to buy extensively from local farmers and artisans. Through the Eat Local Challenge, Bon Appétit hopes to illustrate the consequences of food choices for the local economy and inspire support for small-scale, local farmers. As consumers find it increasingly hip to shop at farmers’ markets, Bon Appétit proves that eating local is also possible on a much larger scale: at corporations, universities, museums, theatres, and other specialty venues.

For chefs, it’s the pure flavors, along with the new relationships forged with local farmers, that are the greatest rewards of the challenge.

“It can be hard to understand why we shouldn’t eat raspberries in the winter,” Bauccio added, “but we hope that when our guests taste foods at the peak of ripeness, produce that has been harvested nearby within days, or even hours, maybe it will click: This is how food is meant to taste.”

About Bon Appétit Management Company
Bon Appétit Management Co. is an onsite restaurant company offering full food service management to corporations, universities and specialty venues. Bon Appétit is committed to sourcing local, sustainable food supplies for all cafés throughout the country. A pioneer in environmentally-sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs with Environmental Defense, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and other leading conservation organizations. Based in Palo Alto, CA. Bon Appétit has more than 400 cafés in 29 states, including Oracle Corporation, American University and the Getty Center.