The Bon Appétit Blog

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I have in my office a stack of #10 canned green beans. Almost every time Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio walks by, I get a somewhat of a humorous pestering as to “why does my culinary director have canned foods in his office. It’s not us!” But, these cans intrigue me. The beans are grown sustainably on family farms in Willamette, Oregon. The Food Alliance Certified label is pronominally displayed next to the farmer’s name. The producers speak to wildlife conservation and an equitable workplace. To me this sounds like us. It talks to extending our local Farm to Fork season. It talks to sustaining small family farms by encouraging them to process their harvest and expend their markets. It talks to minimizing the carbon footprint by purchasing items that are produced nearby in the off season. But….it doesn’t talk […]

In a large unheated shed with two rotating fans and a few dim fluorescent lights, Bob Calala runs Ohio’s only shrimp nursery, 20 miles west of Oberlin amid corn fields, red barns and vast expanses of flat land. For years this area has been hog territory; now, family farmers are growing more shrimp and fewer hogs. The nursery I visited on Saturday had three tanks that reminded me of above-ground backyard swimming pools but instead of children they contain baby shrimp – 600,000 at the start of the growing process. A 1.5hp pump, powered by French fry oil, blows air into the tanks to circulate the water. The shrimp are fed a compound that is 28% protein, only a small fraction of which is fishmeal, so the toll on ocean resources is small. Within a month, the shrimp double in […]

Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio serves on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. The group met in San Francisco last week and Director of Culinary Support & Development Marc Zammit and I had the opportunity to present. The subject of our talk was the barriers to "sustainability" for large food service companies. Marc explained the cultural commitment Bon Appetit has made to sustainability as well as how having a skilled culinary team in every cafe is crucial to our success. We then discussed sourcing, seasonality, complexity and financial adjustments as challenges other companies may face when trying to go "green." Here is a pdf of our PowerPoint…  Download pew_commission_challenges.pdf After the meeting, the group dined at Acme Chophouse, our restaurant at AT&T Park that we run in partnership with Traci Des Jardins. Bill Niman of Niman Ranch, also […]

Minneapolis’s City Pages published a review of our restaurant Cue at the Guthrie Theater that is one of the most interesting restaurant reviews I’ve ever read. Not only does author Dara Moskowitz critique Chef Lenny Russo’s food, she touches on the organic vs. local debate and the history of the Guthrie in Minneapolis.

The cover story of today’s Washington Post business section is a great story entitled "A Growing Trend: Small, Local and Organic: Popularity of Farmers Markets, Natural Grocery Stores Helps Cultivate a Rise in Niche Farms" The piece mentions several Bon Appetit accounts including American University, Gallaudet University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Georgetown University Law Center. Bon Appetit supplier Brett Grohsgal (Even’ Star Organic Farm) is quoted along with Georgetown Law General Manager Kimberly Triplett who describes the effort she put forth to build a relationship with Brett. Here’s a photo of her trip to Brett’s farm…

Last week was exceptionally busy outside the office. On Monday, I lectured in a joint undergraduate-MBA evening seminar for University of San Francisco’s sustainable business program on what an environmentally responsible seafood procurement policy would look like and the factors that go into the decision to develop one. I was challenged on a number of points by a young Oregonian whose family is in the pink shrimp farming business which made the hour-and-a-half especially interesting (for me, anyway). On Wednesday I hosted a sustainable seafood cooking demonstration at eBay where executive chef Bob Clark prepared four meals in 15 minutes. Using Alaska Halibut and Mahi-Mahi in two recipes each, he made us all hungry as he talked through what he was doing at the stove. Fortunately, we got to taste the products of his labor immediately afterwards. It was a […]

I’ve just returned from my first meeting as a member of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Round Table. This is a volunteer group of scientist, faculty members, business leaders with a variety of individuals from our industry, all of whom share a  like-minded focus on advocating good nutrition. The Round Table is chaired by Dr. Walter Willett, well respected (and sometimes controversial) icon in the field of nutrition.  He’s been credited with single handedly generating national awareness around the dangers of trans-fatty acid AND changing the way food is being produced and consumed in the US.  This man wow’s me! The Round Table meets periodically to review research findings and to strategize ways to initiate change in the public sector.  I find it very exciting to be a part of this.  Bon Appétit has been a model for […]

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel called "A Short Course on the Food Service Industry: Successful Change Through Knowing Your Business Partner" at the Annual Meeting of the Community Food Security Council in Vancouver, BC. My co-presenters included John Turenne of Sustainable Food Systems, Josh Balk of the Humane Society of the United States and Mike Schreiner of Local Flavour Plus. John started the session with a great overview of how purchasing works in large food service companies. The audience was made up primarily of farm to school advocates so hearing the interworkings of large companies was eye-opening. The biggest take away was that most major companies "score" their unit managers on something called "compliance." Purchasing compliance means buying products that fit into contracts negotiated by a central purchasing agent. Emphasis on this measurement can […]

The New York Times’ article today about school lunches in Britain reminds how the debate about what kids eat, at home or in school, usually misses the point. The article reports on one school where kids refer to new, healthier meals as “rubbish” (translation: I won’t try it) and quote parents at one school who say you can’t get kids to eat food they don’t like. Later the reporter references another school that changed its menu gradually and lowered fat content over time, probably resulting in higher acceptance by kids consuming the food (although the evidence is anecdotal). The debate about getting kids to eat healthier food is usually framed as how can we cater to children’s palates. That so misses the point. What we need to talk about is how we should form their palates. As a parent, it’s […]

Over the past year so much has been written about whether ‘industrial organic’ food is a good thing. Does it help or hurt small organic farmers, dairymen and ranchers – the agricultural innovators of the last half century – if the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Safeway are rolling out private-label organic brands and making “organic” a mainstream option? For all the commitments made by large-scale retailers about local purchasing, we know that the vast majority of produce and grains are being grown overseas in places where the legal labor is even cheaper than lowly-paid agricultural workers in the US. This trend has the potential to crush small domestic producers who are stewards of our nearby open spaces, air and water quality and, most differentially, of the people who do the physically hard work of food production. This trend also […]