Eating healthy foods and supporting sustainable farming does not have to stop when you go out to eat! In fact, chefs and restaurant owners in Chicago and around the country are leading the charge to bring foods from small, local farms to your plate when you dine out.
The Good Food Festival & Conference is exploring the theme, Your Choices Matter this year and we polled a few of our ethics-minded local restaurants to see what choices they make and why. Here is the question we put to chefs and restaurant owners:
Consumers are making healthier food choices these days, buying more whole foods, shopping at farmers markets, being part of a farm’s CSA. From your perspective in the food industry, what food/sourcing/cooking choices do you make that matter and why?
And here are their thoughtful replies:
"At Trattoria No. 10 and all Rosenthal Group restaurants, we choose only animal proteins that have been 100% raised without antibiotics. Giant agribusiness administers 80% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. to promote rapid growth and keep animals alive in horribly unhealthy conditions. This practice not only provides the perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria which sicken hundreds of thousands and kill more than 30,000 humans each year, it also is quickly rendering useless the very antibiotics doctors use as their first line of defense against bacterial infection. Of all the food choices we can make, for us, this is, by far, the most important. Luckily, the sources of meat raised without antibiotics often come from small, local family farms.
- Dan Rosenthal, owner
"We try and take a 360° approach in evaluating our food choices. In some cases grass-fed is a great option but the land demand is high and the yield is low so we look at other options such as grass-finished. There are a host of considerations that we need to evaluate especially with protein choices so we challenge ourselves to evaluate all of the considerations and make the choice that feels like the best choice.
We obviously also love utilizing our greenhouse and continually refine and expand our growing program.
[Autre Monde's greenhouse photo]
Using everything is another tenant we adhere to. The true Mediterranean diet is based in this philosophy - waste not, want not. So by making everything to order and using all or as much of the product that comes through our doors as possible the benefit is twofold, eliminating waste and providing a more unadulterated and inherently tastier product
We also exchange our cooking (fryer) oil. It is picked up by Solvent Solutions and recycled into cleaning products. This is one of our favorite initiatives
The one thing we would love to see is better solar technology to run industrial kitchens. There is no doubt that even the most diligent restaurant finds it difficult to limit energy use. Running a kitchen off solar energy we would be huge for the environment and the money saved could be impactful in funding other projects we would like to fund.
- Christine Tully Aranza, owner Autre Monde Cafe
"My choices are determined by the quality of the animals’ life, pasture feed, non-gmo feed, and price. All of these have equal importance to me. I want to know that my farmer is doing what he can to raise happy animals. I have to be able to sell an animal at a cost that turns a profit and a cost the customer can tolerate. It is a delicate line. I think the most important part of sourcing is buying what is local, non-gmo, and pastured, free-range animals. Support local and we will be supported back.
- Sean Sanders, chef/owner Browntrout
"The most important decisions I’ve made are the ones that most affect the future of food – doing the difficult work of searching out sustainable sources of seafood and building those relationships is the hardest one because Chicago is a long way from the ocean, but it’s important nonetheless because those decisions still affect the earth’s resources and have a very real impact on the people in the fishing communities and their future. Purchasing food is never out of sight, out of mind. Every purchase has an impact and that’s why we have taken the step of serving only sustainably sourced seafood. We buy all of our meat and dairy from small-scale, local farmers who raise their animals on pasture. This affects the health and well-being of each animal which I believe makes better, healthier food. The same goes with our small local vegetable and fruit farmers – to me, it’s not really about the “food miles,” it’s about community and relationships. When we make feeding each other our common endeavor, the very nature of human relationships and everyone’s good spirit comes out and that lifts everyone up."
- Paul Fehribach, chef/owner Big Jones
Whether in Chicago our elsewhere, be sure to support the efforts of restaurateurs like these who have the kind of Good Food ethics you have when you shop. We at FamilyFarmed.org work hard to introduce thoughtful Chicago restaurants like this to diners at our Localicious party that features over 40 local restaurants, craft breweries and distilleries – celebrating the farmers who grow our food and the chefs who transform it!
Photo of Autre Monde Cafe's greenhouse, by Ature Monde