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Someone has just brought me a lovely head of Traviso from her CSA box. This is one of my favorite greens and sadly enough the first thought that came to my mind was…how soon before this flavor disappears in California? At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I’m afraid that we might be on teh edge of losing wonderful flavors like this from our plates…flavors that for years have been slowly brought back and nurtured through the small and creative family farmer. Americans are finally rediscovering what spinach or tomato or apples should taste like. The have discovered new flavors in greens like Deer Tongue, Curly Endive, Arugula and Traviso. Today, these flavors are being threatened by the magic of well intentioned but unbendable California Big Ag. The Western Growers Association recently implemented a uniform set of growing standards […]

Some months ago, we started toying with the idea of extending business opportunities for our small local farmers by encouraging the local processing of their harvest. Soon enough I ended up with several #10 cans of locally and sustainably grown green beans on my desk to the dismay of my peers and our CEO. The Director of Culinary Support has canned green beans on this desk? What gives? These beans were produced by Truitt Brothers in Oregon and the product had many of the right elements that are important to us: family farms, sustainability, low carbon foot print – except for the fact they were canned. I was lost as to how to approach this, being personally entrenched in our food philosophy that is deeply anchored in using fresh. At the same time, I know the reality that seasonal ingredients […]

A series of new studies reported in the  tells us that the bigger the produce the less the flavor and nutrient value. "Big" produce, grown for its yield, size and color is the hallmark of "Big" ag and the reason we can feed more people for less money. But, the fact that these foods are also less than flavorful or nutrient dense should not be surprise to anyone? Good folks tied to their food system and where it comes from have been telling us this for 50 years or more.  But it’s news when the scientist say it?  Whatever. Our chefs have also been saying the same thing. That’s because they know where their food comes from. They know about the exciting diversity of flavors grown by small farmers. When Micah gets tomatoes from Charlie at Flamingo Ridge Farms […]

The connection between our food and where it comes is at best loose and flimsy for many people that live the Western World. This is as true for chefs as it is for the average Joe.  But not this Joe…Joe McGarry. Joe M is one of our senior chefs in the Northwest Region. Low key in attitude but highly passionate about his food; where it comes from and how it is prepared so that it is respected for its natural flavors.  Recently he encouraged several of his peers to leave their whites in the kitchen and put on their fishing gear for a hands on experience in salmon reefnetting on Lummi Island…all part of the Chefs in Raingear  program that brings culinarians and fishermen together. I am attaching an album of photos from that experience that are a must see, […]

The bite  of sweetness from the raw "just picked" corn was a welcomed balance to the bitter black coffee I was drinking.  It is 7 AM  in Ann Harbor, Michigan (4 am Pacific Time, the zone I’m still on) and I am tasting my way through the farmer’s market with a few peers.  We are here for a round table meeting of a small group called the National Supply and Value Chain Network. But some of us couldn’t help starting our day chatting with farmer’s and literally enjoying the fruits of their labor. A reminder that at the end of day, the goal of our Network is to bring  back and preserve the flavors of the American family farm. I am at this meeting representing Bon Appétit, as a model of what is possible in the business world when it […]

With 400 cafes and restaurants across the country, Bon Appétit chefs must source a significant volume of local foods from sustainable farms to feed our guests every day. As joyfully as we approach this task, the current American agricultural system is unfortunately designed to make our jobs much harder. Despite the recent boom in sustainable and organic foods, it is no secret that small local farms and artisans who rely on them often struggle to keep their farms alive and make a decent living from the land; therefore, for a company such as ours, and for millions of Americans, access to an abundant supply of local foods remains a challenge. Why is this so? Farm subsidies are almost entirely dedicated to industrial farming, even as more and more chefs and consumers shift their purchasing preferences to foods grown in their […]

Two articles I read yesterday morning were both interesting yet concerning: 1. According to a British study released this morning, an estimated 3,200 deaths from cardiovascular disease could be prevented with a "carefully targeted fat tax" on certain foods. On average, this would increase weekly household food expenditure by 3-4%. The researchers from Oxford University gave the examples of tobacco and alcohol arguing that taxing these items effectively reduced consumption and led to improved public health.  The science is there: too much salt and too much fat in your diet can contribute to heart disease. The obstacle is trying to get people to change their behavior and eating habits, which is much easier said than done. Tobacco and alcohol are not essential to life; food is. Will taxing "bad" food encourage people to eat less of it? This isn’t the […]

Last winter, I spent months researching the Low Carbon Diet program. I read scientific journals, participated in listservs, and interviewed scientists. While I enjoyed my work then, I’m finding greater satisfaction now. Over the past month, I’ve gone to regional meetings of Bon Appetit chefs and managers to explain how food choices contribute to global warming and what we’re planning to do about it. I’ve got two more meetings to go. With an hour-long presentation, I’ve probably numbed many people, but the comments I’ve gotten afterwards are fascinating. Here are three: I never realized that fresh seafood would be more energy-intensive than frozen seafood (Portland, OR). I’ll never look at a banana the same way again (Los Angeles). I’m planning to grow all my unit’s romaine and onions on campus next year (Minneapolis). Our primary goal in announcing a Low […]

I recently read an article written by a mother complaining that we are raising a generation of kids that can only find happiness indoors, in front of their TVs or computer games.  Her own kids pouted and resisted when she tried to take them on an outdoor nature trip. You know what? My heart didn’t go out to her or any of the other parents with the same complaints about their kids…where were you when they were developing those habits? OK…off my soapbox.  But I mention this because it is related to another story (blog) I came across recently.  A much more promising story about our younger generation. The blog was from STOGROW farm (St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works,) a student run community initiative at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. We happen to run the food program on […]

I came across this brief mention of Bon Appétit Management Company in a graduation speech given at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and I couldn’t help but feel like a parent sitting in the audience, humble and proud.  Dr. Jim Farrell, a professor of history and American Studies at St. Olaf, encouraged the students to “learn the beauty of language, learn the moral ecology of everyday life,” and he also said: “I hope you’re learning how small decisions make a big difference. Too often, we opt out of a good cause or a good action by saying that ‘it’s no big deal.’ But many of our most pressing problems are the product of billions of decisions that are no big deal. Three times a day, in Stav Hall, Bon Appétit has also been teaching you how small decisions make a […]