Practical Sustainability Practices for Your Kitchen

By Victoria Brown


Victoria Brown
Jan Burhman of Kitchen Porch | Martha's Vineyard, MA
Jan Burhman of Kitchen Porch | Martha's Vineyard, MA

Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch, a catering company in Martha’s Vineyard that provides culinary and agricultural experiences, spoke to attendees at the recent Women Chefs and Restaurateurs conference in Los Angeles about sensible ways to operate a more sustainable kitchen. “We have to ask ourselves, what are our motives? Are we trendy or are we a part of the solution?” says Buhrman. “Sustainability is much richer than having a light impact. Consider your practices and begin to make small changes.” Buhrman offered sustainable solutions that can be readily implemented and have a larger collective impact. 

Train Guests to Share Protein
“The over-serving of meat portions has grown out of control. We need to offer less meat and dairy products on the plate if we want a price point [for sustainable product] that is affordable to our diners,” says Buhrman. “If we offer more amazing vegetable dishes, we can train our diners to share a $95 steak for the table and be satisfied. This is how we change the dining experience to be sustainable. … Consider bringing back the Sunday Supper and offer a whole roasted lamb dish. Start simple—invite your closest friends or favorite customers.”

Create a Market for Cover Crops
“If we are talking about diet, plants or soil—or even our guts—everything needs diversity to be healthy,” she says. “Crops like barley, buckwheat, purslane, peas, clovers, alfalfa, and vetch are all common cover crops. They work with soil bacteria to convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen in the soil that can be absorbed by plant roots.” Buhrman says chefs need to start a conversation with farmers to gets these crops on their menus.  

Upgrade Bread Service 
“There is nothing that warms the soul faster than warm bread,” says Burhman. She notes, however, that “bread (with good ingredients) with butter will run you $5 per loaf, and this will have to be included in your costs.” Burhman suggests making bread service feel premium so you can pass along the cost to customers, while support artisans and farmers who use best practices. “Consider the presentation on a cutting board or wrapped in a dish towel, or try Anson Mills corn bread in a cast iron skillet.”

Find a Way to Compost
“Meat and dairy products are among the most energy-intensive food products, and a big contributor to greenhouse gases,” she says. “Hook up with a farmer, and feed his pigs, or find a compost pile that you can contribute to.”

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