Photography by Camilo Carvallo
By Liz Warton
Chef Bruce Sherman dreams of a
sustainable future. As chef and partner of North Pond in Chicago,
he uses his restaurant as a vehicle for educating staff and customers
on the importance of local sustainable agriculture. “We believe
it’s important to link concern for sustainable cuisine to
the pleasures of everyday fine dining,” says Sherman. He is
one of many chefs across the country who promotes the relationship
between farm and table.
For the past five years, Sherman has been organizing a staff road
trip to the farmland of Illinois. Each trip entails visiting a variety
of the restaurant’s purveyors so the staff can meet the individual
farmers and learn more about their produce. While all the staff
is invited, it is ultimately the ones willing to give up their precious
“day off” to further their culinary education. “I’ve
absolutely seen a difference in the attitudes and understanding
of the staff towards the food at the restaurant,” says Sherman.
He also encourages his staff to visit the weekly farmer’s
market in Chicago and interact with the farmers there.
Sherman also put his belief into action in the dining room with
his wine donation program. To the price of each bottle of wine he
adds a dollar, which is donated with a matching dollar from restaurant
revenue, to organizations like the Chefs Collaborative and Stateline
Farm Beginnings. These charitable organizations are dedicated to
educating and promoting sustainable, organic cuisine and the farming
practices behind it.
On the East Coast, Stage Left Restaurant owners, Mark Pascal
and Francis Schott have been developing relationships with local
purveyors for over ten years. As successful restaurateurs, consultants
and hosts of the Restaurant Guys Radio Show, they focus
on the business benefits of the farm to table concept. “If
restaurants buy local and sustainable produce, that’s what
people with money want to eat,” says Schott. They claim that
sustainable agriculture is the number one advantage that small restaurants
have over bigger chains that don’t use local purveyors. As
consultants, they encourage clients to highlight their local farmers
and seasonal ingredients though email campaigns and special food-focused
Pascal and Schott also organize outings for
the staff to a variety of the nearby New Jersey farms. Often a trip
will inspire the staff to use a local ingredient in a non-traditional
way or create an appreciation for handcrafted artisanal cheeses.
Pascal sums it up after a recent trip to a strawberry farm in Monroe,
New Jersey; “You want to talk about farm to plate, stand in
that field on a 78 degree day, and take one of the strawberries
off the vine that is warm from the sun, and eat it.
spectacular.” While staff outings or team building exercises
might be common in the restaurant world, this new theme of sustainable
agriculture goes a long way to further educate and inspire in the