The Eat Local Challenge (ELC), now in its 19th year, is a little like Christmas at Bon Appétit. Of course, Bon Appétiters celebrate the bounty of local foods year-round, but every September, accounts across the country participate in this one big day that shines a national spotlight on our commitment to supporting local food systems.
The Eat Local Challenge asks chefs to prepare at least one dish made from 100% local ingredients, down to the fats, spices, and herbs. That’s right – everything but the salt must be sourced from within 150 miles of the account. It’s always fun and fascinating to see what our chefs come up with, and how dishes differ from region to region, highlighting the diversity of this country’s local and regional foodsheds.
This year’s theme was Get Rooted in Local – accounts were asked to experiment with and highlight root vegetables. From beetroot risotto to rutabaga hummus, craft and creativity were truly on display. Read on for more about this year’s Eat Local Challenge, from a national perspective.
The Best Buy team near Minneapolis ran an entrée of cider-braised beef short ribs with whipped cheddar and bacon potatoes, butter-roasted oyster mushrooms, and a bean medley with caramelized shallots. Meat providers Hidden Stream Farm and Kornder Farms joined them to celebrate and inspire their guests to support local farms. Chor Vue Family Farm also joined the culinary team at a farmers’ market tent to sell local produce.
California College of the Arts
The California College of the Arts team in San Francisco integrated their event with one of their higher-end chef’s table dinners, so they gave their meal a sophisticated spin. Executive Chef Andrew Baechler topped grilled Marin Sun Farm ribeye with Farmer Fresh Dollar mushrooms and Point Reyes blue cheese and paired it with an array of amazing produce – Gilroy garlic mashed yams, roasted Romanesco, and rainbow cauliflower. A lovely grilled Belgian endive and Frog Hollow peach salad was part of the menu too.
The Bon Appetit team at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota celebrated Eat Local Challenge with two of their local Farm to Fork partners, including Hidden Stream Farm, who joined the team with samples of some of their products and answered questions from students. Hidden Stream Farm is proud to be a third-generation regenerative farm, and their pork loin was featured on the ELC menu, along with a beet salad and a number of additional all-local dishes. Tree Range Farms joined the team at Burton Dining Hall and showed a video of how their slow growth chickens are raised in forested pastures where they can forage on plants and bugs (like the omnivores they are), without any need for antibiotics or restrictive confinement.
Case Western Reserve University
The dining halls and retail locations at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH – including Tinkham Vale University Center (TVUC), Fribley dining hall, Leutner dining hall, Tomlinson Marketplace, and BRB Café—used the ELC to highlight key farm partnerships. Rainbow Farms Miller Livestock’s pork was featured in Fribley as an herb-roasted apple cider brined loin; guests could find the farm’s garlic-crusted pork belly at TVCU and Tomlinson. Cleveland Tofu popped up in herb-crusted tofu as well as glazed tofu bites with sweet melon barbecue sauce (with a side of corn grits and caramelized fennel). Sides for both meat and tofu included an array of produce – roots like tri-color carrots and golden beets from Hartzler Dairy Farm, Rainbow Farms, and the Vegetable Basket Farm. The CWRU Farm also set up a table with a gorgeous display of produce from the farm along with information and volunteer opportunities for students. All around, a robust (and delicious) day celebrating the farms and relationships our culinary teams have built.
Claremont McKenna College
The team at Claremont McKenna college in Claremont, CA, made sure students had a great time learning about sustainable dairy farming. Local dairy farmers came out from Hollandia Dairy to share their expertise and brought along the fender blender bike to make people–powered smoothies! Local produce was abundant on the menus, including mushrooms, eggplants, fennel, and tomatoes. Sirloin from Mariposa Ranch was paired with Wiser Family fingerling potatoes roasted in local olive oil for an all- Southern California meal.
For this year’s Eat Local Challenge, lunch at Denison University in Granville, Ohio used ingredients sourced from within 150 miles of the café. Huffman dining hall featured a build-your-own chopped taco salad with ingredients – including onions and garlic – from seven different farms! The taco bar offered braised chicken from Pleasant Valley Farms and black beans from Shagbark Seed and Mill. The tortilla chips were also sourced from Shagbark. The toppings, from barley to a vegetable medley, were all sourced from local dairies and vegetable farms. Curtis dining hall featured a build-your-own nacho bar, with ingredients from six different farms, plus a beautiful display of local vegetables and the whole black beans from Shagbark Seed and Mill. Lunch had a great turnout and students loved the interactive stations. The versatility of the build-your-own stations allowed guests to create an all-local meal specific to their tastes.
Illumina San Diego
Illumina San Diego ran with the Rooted in Local theme and leaned in to an often-overlooked root vegetable: the parsnip. The all-local menu featured Jidori chicken with local parsnip puree, crisp parsnip chips, and slow cooked Swiss chard. The vegan option swapped out the chicken for herb roasted tofu and paired it with the same parsnip puree, sweet parsnip chips, and Swiss chard.
The culinary team at MKS showcased the bounty of the Pacific Northwest through their dishes . Guests learned about the abundance of local mushroom cultivators and the care the suppliers take with their fungi. Champoeg Farms, just 35 minutes from the office, provided the meat for chicken cutlets coated in Sungold Farms cornmeal. Guests were delighted by the dish, which also featured brined Sungold beets and parsnip puree made with parsnips from Sauvie Island Growers. The vegetarian version of the dish featured gorgeous cornmeal-crusted mushrooms for a lovely meal with big PNW energy!
Pacific Union College
The Pacific Union College team in Angwin, CA featured a yam hash with River Dog Farms gypsy peppers topped with a Glaum Farm egg alongside County Line Harvest baby gem salad drizzled with balsamic gastrique and a yam and garbanzo rice cake. Students rallied for the ELC – there was a line out the door at lunch!
Santa Catalina School
One of our oldest accounts, Santa Catalina School in Monterey, CA featured a lovely spread of all-local dishes for every diet. Rosemary and lavender from the school’s gardens were woven throughout the menu, and the culinary team is working with students on increasing the amount of produce sourced from the school’s farm. The menu’s vegan option included a Rancho Gordo bean cacciatore that incorporated mushrooms from nearby Monterey Mushrooms and a spread of local produce, including potatoes, onions and garlic from Pinnacle Organically Grown Produce and Gilroy Garlic.
Santa Clara University
The Santa Clara University team in Santa Clara, CA got creative with their use of beets, highlighting the sweet roots in a roasted beet root risotto as well as a beef tenderloin with roasted beets. Producers included Marin Sun Farms, Capay Valley Farm Shop, and Next Generation Foods. The meal was made without gluten-containing ingredients and skipped the top 9 allergens, to boot!
Savannah College of Art and Design
At Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA, Ration Café offered 100% local dishes on four of their stations. In addition to the burgers and chicken coming from their regular providers, the café offered a Hunter Cattle Chicken meatloaf slider with local caramelized onions and Thomasville Tomme cheese.
It was great to have the family from Hunter Cattle join the celebration!
A Transportation Technology Company
This San Francisco-based tech company’s food team took the Eat Local Challenge as an opportunity to educate their colleagues in the company about the importance of the Bon Appétit ethos. The culinary teams took the challenge by storm and created a range of menus across multiple cafés and food spaces that pulled from a wide array of cultures and cuisines. At one of the cafés, Executive Chef Andrea Cesca highlighted a variety of products from the Capay Valley Farms on her flatbread with onion, watercress, and walnuts. Sous-chef Esther Paek created a dish with carrots and delicate squash from JSM Farms, while Chef de Cuisine Tony Real highlighted Moroccan-spiced tomatoes from Tenbrink Farm alongside roasted sunchokes from Capay Valley. Together, their culinary artistry captured the essence of the San Francisco Bay region and its seasons.
University of San Francisco
The culinary team at the University of San Francisco got rooted in local food in two of their cafés, with balsamic-roasted Mary’s chicken and an abundance of produce from Riverdog Farms, Terra Firma Farms, Star Route Farms, and Christopher Ranch. From roasted beets and arugula salad to roasted eggplant with basmati rice and sole with squash blossoms and flowering cilantro, the teams worked to convey the taste of the Bay Area.
University of the Pacific
Students at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA turned out for the special meal during the Eat Local Challenge and had a chance to enjoy seared California black cod with Happy Boy greens and radishes, Zuckerman steak potatoes, Laura Chenel goat cheese and house-made local radish pesto with California Ranch olive oil. Bonus – if guests were thirsty, local fruit water was also on offer!
The Whittier College team in Whittier, California worked a citrusy angle with a fresh tangerine-lemon-cucumber relish spooned over baked black cod from the fishing boat Noah’s Arc. Tarragon roasted cauliflower, mixed wild mushrooms, sunchokes, and heirloom potatoes rounded out the all-local mix.
In the main dining hall at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA, the students feasted on the 100% local meal which included a roasted sweet potato and beet salad (yay, roots!) made with local greens, crispy fried mushrooms, butter, truffle sea salt over easy egg with creamy herb drizzle. Also – sweet potato smoothies! And local vendors like Narragansett Creamery were on hand to sample tastes of the region.
Roger Williams University
The culinary team at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island embraced their local seafood to make fried calamari, swordfish, and ceviche; plus pulled pork, tortillas, an all-local charcuterie board, and other dishes inspired by local vendors and fresh ingredients!
The team at Colby College in Waterville, Maine really leaned into the Get Rooted theme with assorted hummus – beet hummus, garlic-rutabaga hummus, radish sundried tomato hummus, and mixed root veg latkes (they got carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and rutabaga in there!). Both chicken and tofu made an appearance in root vegetable fricassee and a root vegetable braise, respectively.
There was no shortage of locally grown inspiration for the ELC meal at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA. The culinary team served up a feast that included salt-crusted pork with sautéed candied onions and shishito peppers, butter and parsley Kennebec potatoes with sautéed leeks, plus many other delightful locally sourced ingredients. Thanks to partners from Heartland Family Fresh Farms, Echollective Farms, Buffalo Ridge Orchard, Old Capitol Tofu, Noble Bee Honey, WW Homestead Dairy, and Mount Vernon Iowa water.
Another line out the door for this ELC meal! The team at Emory Oxford College in Atlanta, GA featured Greek stuffed eggplant, fried okra, honey-roasted carrots, and roasted sweet potatoes on their menu, and the school farm was on hand to spread the word about all the hard work they do to provide produce for the school.
The culinary team at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA had fun with the ELC this year and served up Hayshaker Farm rainbow carrots and dill, Alvarez Organic Farms red beans, Brush Creek Creamery labneh, Creamline Farms cultured butter, all seasoned perfectly with (bonus points) San Juan Island sea salt.
At Gordon College in Wenham, MA, the culinary team’s focus for their ELC meal this year was a maple chili–glazed chicken with parsnip and sweet potato puree alongside maple–glazed Brussels sprouts, carrots, and onions. Students could finish their meal on a sweet note with apple cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Featured local farms were High Lawn Farm, Maine Grains, and Horse Listener’s Orchard.
Cornish College of the Arts
The culinary team at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA looked to partners at the Puget Sound Food Hub to source their ingredients for the Eat Local Challenge. Their featured dish was a root vegetable extravaganza: grilled kohlrabi, charred honey leeks, carrot jalapeño puree, roasted red potatoes and candied fennel.
We can’t wait to see what our team members across the country come up with next year – the 20th anniversary of the ELC!