1. Holistic Sustainability
Sustainability has evolved from a bi-weekly visit to farmers markets to ultra-localized, eco-conscious, seasonal menus and integrated green technologies changing the way we do business. So perhaps it’s odd that only recently has “sustainability” really begun to include the human element. The restaurant industry asks a lot of people, from production to execution, and it seems as if policy is (slowly) beginning to catch up. Take our discussion at ICC 2012, a simple idea: not only must we promote the sustainability of the tomato, we must protect the workers who harvest those tomatoes, often subject to pesticides, physical abuse, and alleged slavery. (We’re happy to note that, not long after our Tomato Workers ICC panel with Jose Duarte, Barry Estabrook, and Gerardo Reyes, companies like Chipotle changed their tune on this issue.) Meanwhile restaurants across the country are adopting new policies on health insurance, in large part due to new federal regulations, ending the days when health insurance in the kitchen was a laughable luxury. In fact, about three-fourths of respondents to last year’s salary survey said their employers offered health insurance, and roughly half of those plans were at least 50 percent employer subsidized. A peek at markets like Hawaii, where chefs by necessity must support local farmers (and each other) to help prop up the local economy, offers a sliver of the future of a holistic sustainability recast in human terms.
Chef Jose Duarte, Activist Gerardo Reyes Chávez, and Author Barry Estabrook take on the human cost of harvesting tomatoes at this year’s International Chefs Congress