The Sustainability Issue
It’s easy to get caught up in culinary buzz words – whether it’s savory jellies, powders, or “the return” of meat – but the catch-phrase this past year has been an ethos, not an ingredient: sustainability. Along with everyone else, we’ve defined and redefined what it means, and come to realize that more that anything else, it’s about committing to making a positive difference, no matter how small, with both your restaurant and the larger world in mind.
There’s an increasing urgency for us, as an industry, to think about the consequences of our decisions – global warming isn’t going to stop itself – and as an industry, we wield a lot of power. Last month Women Chefs and Restaurateurs held their national conference in Rhode Island, and the overarching message of the gathering was clear – for the sake of our continued existence as happy, healthy tenants of this earth, we need to change our ways of thinking about food. It may sound apocalyptic but when these passionate women discussed and questioned the state of the industry and the ways in which we can change it, we were truly inspired.
In our article on Climate Change and Food, we give some statistics about the toll that industrial food production and transportation is taking on the global climate, and present small solutions that every kitchen – from fine dining to a casual cafe – can learn from. In this issue of A Sustainable Kitchen, Barton Seaver talks about tiger shrimp he’s bringing in from West Africa; but hear him out – Seaver describes a transport solution (fly the small amount of produce that must be imported long distance on passenger planes!) that maximizes energy already being expended. In older features (that are certainly worth re-visiting), San Francisco chef Laurence Jossel shares simple tips for making your restaurant more sustainable, and Craig Haney of The Stone Barnes Center for Agriculture teaches us about Heritage Breed Turkeys and polyculture farming.
We hope you’re surprised by the little steps that can make a difference. As we interview chefs for our Rising Stars Sustainability Award (introduced this year to celebrate and encourage chef leadership in this important arena), we’re told again and again how receptive the community has been to their efforts to bring local food and sustainable philosophies into their dining rooms. Food- and chef-obsessed consumers are keeping track of their favorite chefs’ every move, from openings and closings to their Facebook profiles – why not use the spotlight to your advantage? Today more than ever, the tiniest changes you make have the power to educate and inspire your dinners, and make a difference through your actions.
Sustainability and the role and responsibility of a chef is going to be the theme of our International Chefs Congress next year. If you have specific topics you'd like to see covered, or areas you'd like to learn more about, please let us know.