Bon Appétit Rises to 16th Annual Eat Local Challenge

[Click on the first thumbnail above for a slideshow with full details]

On September 29, Bon Appétit teams across the country celebrated our 16th annual Eat Local Challenge Day, proving that yes we CAN still eat local! While in previous years we’ve upped the level of challenge — asking our chefs to integrate locally caught seafood, for example, or feature “bumper crops” — 2020 has offered more than enough challenges. So we went back to our roots.

two women in Eat Local t-shirts

Regional Operations Marketing Support Manager Carey Durand and Marketing Manager Mandy Rentschler had custom T-shirts made for Eat Local Challenge Day

The challenge: prepare one 100% local dish, with all of the ingredients (including oils, fats, sweeteners, spices, and herbs — the only exception allowed is salt) drawn from within 150 miles.

That doesn’t mean that some teams didn’t manage to still go above and beyond. If ELC 2020 had a champion, it would have to be the Bon Appétit team at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN. In the weeks leading up to Eat Local Challenge, Marketing Manager Mandy Rentschler, Regional Operations Marketing Support Manager Carey Durand, and others visited six of Butler’s local suppliers (Arnold Farms, Garcia’s Gardens, Berry Goods Farm, Caprini Creamery, Cameron Farms, and Hoosier Growers) and shot videos and photographs that Mandy later shared on the @bonappetitbutler Instagram and on slideshows running in the café on ELC Day. They had “I Ate Local” stickers made to hand out to the students in line for meals, while the team wore custom T-shirts exhorting everyone to “#EatLocal now more than ever.”

Executive Chef Brandon Canfield and his team went all out as well, putting together multiple local dishes for each Butler dining hall, starting with a shakshuka-style egg bake featuring Spring Valley Farm eggs in spicy Hoosier Growers pepper and tomato sauce and topped with Crystal Springs Creamery yogurt and Garcia Farms cilantro. The multiple lunch and dinner options included slow-roasted maple-cured Cameron Farms pork belly with Rockville Produce Association sweet aji pepper and green tomato marmalade, served with whipped Rockville butternut squash, stewed McLures Apple Orchard apples, and house-made local sauerkraut. Even the Butler Dining food truck offered local chicken wings with house-made sauces!

Chefs and staff touring a farm

The Lafayette College team — including (left to right) Campus Executive Chef John Soder, General Manager Chris Brown, Director of Retail Colleen Dovidio, and Executive Chef Scott Sypniewski — toured LaFarm with Assistant Director of Food and Farm Lisa Miskelly (right)

Eat Local Challenge has always been an opportunity both for field trips and to invite local farmers and ranchers into the café, and this year was no exception. The Bon Appétit at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, team took a few minutes away from their kitchens to attend a socially distant tour of the Lafayette College Farm, or “LaFarm” as it’s affectionately called. Spanning 3-plus acres, LaFarm grows vegetables that are sold to the dining halls and local community, as well as offers community garden space for community members. The farm is run by Assistant Director of Food and Farm Lisa Miskelly, who showed the team around and explained her plans for transitioning to fall and winter growing. As they walked and talked, the Bon Appétit team strategized with Lisa about their end of season purchases, and began planning ahead for next year.

Meanwhile at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI, fourth-generation farmers Scott and Ali Ferry from nearby Ferry Farms came to campus to talk to students about ranching and offer samples. Executive Chef Shawn Ferguson served a colonial meatloaf featuring Ferry Farms ground beef from Ferry Farms and eggs from Wedded Foot Pine, and served with spaghetti squash from Chefs Way Organic Farms and Country Life heritage beans.

Farmer Matt Couzens visited Gordon College and shared samples of Horse Listener’s Orchard cider and apples

And at Gordon College in Wenham, MA, General Manager Deborah Kapetanopoulos and the Bon Appétit team hosted longtime New England Farm to Fork vendor Matthew Couzens from Horse Listener’s Orchard. (At Emerson College in Boston, Senior Marketing Specialist Christina Solazzo also interviewed Matt about his path to farming for @emersondining’s Instagram TV channel!) Matt’s samples of fresh-pressed apple cider and recently harvested apples were a big hit on campus! In addition to Horse Listeners produce, the Gordon ELC menu included chicken from Misty Knoll Farms, dairy products from High Lawn Farms, tofu from 21st Century Foods, vegetables from Tendercrop Farm, fresh-milled organic flour from One Mighty Mill, and local cod straight from the fishermen in Gloucester, MA. They even found local salt, from Cape Ann Sea Salt Co.!

Local food producers need America’s support now more than ever. Bon Appétit is proud to serve local food not just once a year, but every day.

Check out the photo gallery at the top of this page for even more snapshots of how our teams across the country celebrated their local farmers, ranchers, and foodcrafters, and watch the Farm to Fork Now More Than Ever video!