Lesson learned

Mid-month lesson: Our food supply chain is much more complicated than I thought.

Bon Appetit kitchens are already virtually trans fat free.  In 2004, we converted all our frying oil to non-hydrogenated canola oil.  Also, since our chefs always cook from scratch, we don’t rely on many manufactured products (where trans fats are commonly found).

Now we’re aiming to completely eliminate trans fats from our kitchens so I thought, how hard could that be?  Turns out, it’s not that simple.  My mission to find trans fat free margarines for our kitchens goes something like this:

  • begin my search online and realize that not all companies post trans fat information and that I don’t know all the existing margarine manufacturers
  • go directly to the grocery store, examine Nutrition Facts labels of approximately 30 individual margarine products, identify which ones are trans fat free
  • call manufacturers to find out if these spreads are available in food service (bulk) sizes and also if they’re available nationwide for our 400+ sites
  • sit through numerous holds and transfers to find someone at each company who knows the answers
  • pass on "acceptable and available" list to food supply manager who then says she needs the manufacturing number for each product (different than UPC number) which is used to order through distributors
  • call back manufacturing companies who don’t have the manufacturing number (ironic) and they suggest I directly call the distributors…

Maybe I’m too naive having been out of graduate school and with Bon Appetit only six weeks, but I never realized the true complexity of our food supply chain until now.  I must say, I’m only beginning to appreciate the vast operational system behind the great food we serve in our cafes and I’m definitely eager to learn more about it.  I have no doubt there will be plenty of lessons to come.

-Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager