Well, people may be on different sides of the “save the planet” discussion, so let’s put aside the debate and just settle in on a few undeniable facts (especially as they pertain to the food business):
- Recycling has taken a new turn since countries like China are no longer taking our plastic recyclable waste. No matter what we do, in all good conscience to clean, separate, and stand tall as advocates for not simply adding to the landfill – if no one is taking the next step to process this waste, then we are at an impasse.
- Over-packaging of nearly everything that we buy is out of control.
- As Americans we love our SUV’s and trucks that still consume loads of fossil fuels and spew out a considerable amount of damaging air pollutants. Even with better gas mileage, we are only scratching the surface.
- In a single use society, foodservice operators have readily accepted using loads of paper and plastic supplies for our and the consumers convenience. Much of this simply winds up in overburdened landfills.
- Water may be plentiful in some parts of the country, but it is a commodity in short supply in others. How much water do we waste in food service operations?
- Restaurants design menus around primal parts of animal proteins because this is what customers ask for. Menus are not always clearly designed for total utilization.
- Grocery stores and consumers are infatuated with unblemished, perfect looking produce and blatantly discard tons of perfectly edible food that doesn’t fit that expectation.
- Restaurants are energy gluttons with the lion’s share of consumed energy simply fighting to exit the building as quickly as possible without any real opportunity to be productive.
- We (restaurants) use chemical cleaners with reckless abandon in an effort to minimize the need for “elbow grease”.
- We rarely design our buildings to be energy efficient, taking advantage of fresh air, energy recycling from hot kitchens, and active sun to create less dependence on oil, gas and electricity.
Kudos to Dominique Crenn – The only U.S. 3-star Michelin female chef who, aside from her brilliant food interpretations, has called on us all (restaurant owners, managers, chefs, cooks, servers, dishwashers, vendors, and producers) to WAKE UP and start making a difference.
Here is her wake up call:
“Dear Food Industry: This is your WAKE-UP CALL. I’m calling on everyone in this industry that we love so much—chefs, farmers, winemakers, journalists, restaurant owners, influencers, food lovers, servers, dishwashers, sommeliers, bakers, bloggers, EVERYONE—to share this post and write ONE THING in the caption that they are going to start doing today to fight the climate emergency. This isn’t just for fine dining: If you work in fast food, if you own a cafe in a small town, if you bartend, catch fish, grow crops, bus tables…I want you to join this fight with me! My promise is this: I am going to strive to make all my restaurants waste-free—I’ve already started. And I’m beyond happy to say that my newest location, Boutique Crenn (opening soon…) will not provide a single disposable coffee cup or to-go bag. What’s the one thing YOU can do starting now? And whom can you challenge to do the same? I’m calling on all the chefs from the @bculinary to join me in sounding the alarm. WAKE UP! #incrennible #planet #humanity”
I think that we should all take this to heart and look at how each of us can make a difference. I no longer operate a kitchen, restaurant, or culinary program, but I do consult with many and I write about the life of those who work in kitchens – so this is my way of contributing to the effort.
It was Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane who wrote:
“You are the Crown of Creation”, inferring that in the larger scheme of the design – human beings sit at the top of the food chain. In that role, we should be leading the planet in the right direction rather than turning our heads and ignoring one of our most important responsibilities – caretaker. We have an obligation to be effective stewards, and as such, we must take note that all indications are pointing to running out of time to fix our mistakes of the past.
You may say: “this problem is much bigger than me or my restaurant – what can I really do?” The answer is simple – every person contributes to the solution and collectively we can move the bar in the right direction. We can’t wait for government to solve it for us – the solution must be based on willingness, not mandates. So, as a cook, chef, farmer, restaurateur, vendor, and consumer – here are some things that we can all engage in today:
- Stop promoting the integration of single use plastics and paper in our operations.
- Think about better ways of conserving water (defrost schedules, monitoring the use of full racks running through dish machines, teach your cooks and warewashers how to use a pot sink without the need to change water as frequently, etc.).
- Start communicating with your vendors about over-packaging of the ingredients that you purchase.
- Think total protein utilization when planning menus.
- Reduce the size of trashcans in kitchens to send a message about waste control.
- Have your cooks save their production food scraps rather than simply putting them in the trash. Inspect how much they are wasting before it hits the 30-gallon barrel.
- Save your carrot, onion and celery peels for mirepoix in a stock.
- Design your menus around smaller portions of protein and integrate more interesting variety of vegetables on your menu dishes.
- Go electronic whenever you can – think before you hit “print”.
- Before you buy those chemicals – do some research about their environmental impact. Look for effective alternatives when possible.
- Let your customers know that you are making the effort and encourage them to do the same.
- Make sustainable practices an integral part of your mission and your culture. Measure others on how effectively they contribute to the effort.
Each one of these initiatives is small in scope when you view it from the standpoint of your personal effort or that of one restaurant, but know that we need to start somewhere and good deeds are oftentimes contagious. If it doesn’t start with us, then where will it start?
Thank you Chef Crenn – let’s embrace her WAKE UP CALL and do what we can to make a difference.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Atelier Crenn – 3-Star Restaurant: