A culinary perspective on our sustainable
future and the next-generation kitchen.
In today’s professional kitchen, more and more emphasis is being
placed on sustainability. In many communities, the battle cry of “go
local” is being heard. To understand the issues surrounding these two
inseparable movements, chefs, and all of us, need to be more aware of
the deeper philosophies of these initiatives — the pros and cons and
the costs and savings that will affect day-to-day operations. Only then
can we choose what our role will be.
First, we need to make sure we understand some of the terminology
connected to this discussion. There is a great deal of passion
surrounding the topics of sustainability and local foods. Chefs and
other professionals connected to these movements all have opinions.
Some of the definitions are flavored by the point of view of the definer.
However, facts are facts, so here, we’ll try our best to stick to them.
Jeff Bacon, CEC, CCA, AAC, is executive
chef/program director at Second Harvest Food
Bank of Northwest NC’s Triad Community
Kitchen, a 10-week culinary program offered at
no charge to unemployed, underemployed and
homeless individuals to prepare them for careers
in foodservice, in Winston-Salem, N.C. Bacon is
Southeast Region Vice President of the American
SUSTAINABILITY: Simply put, it’s the ability to
endure. On earth, this involves the potential
of humans to maintain the planet with a view
toward long-term maintenance of well-being,
which, in turn, relies on the well-being of our
GREEN: This term has become a catchall
for anything promoting benefits for the
environment. Some examples are: green
initiatives, green politics, green technologies
and even the green party.
LOCAL FOODS: Usually refers to the local food
movement (food patriotism) and is considered
part of the larger sustainability movement. It
refers to a collaborative effort to build locally
based, self-reliant food economies and to
purchase and consume foods grown in that
particular place. Supposed benefits are the
enhanced economic, environmental and social
health of the given locale. Those who prefer
to eat locally grown/produced goods are
sometimes called locavores.
You live in the middle of a locavore revolution.
The dynamic of farm-to-table restaurants has
taken hold from California to the East Coast.
“What is a locavore?” you may ask. “Is it good,
exciting, beneficial?” In a word, “Yes.”
The locavore movement is a trend of
consumers in a given community who seek
out local food producers to supplement or
replace traditional commodity food suppliers.
“Traditional” is said somewhat in jest, because
locavorism is actually what is traditional in
this country if we go back further than the last
couple of generations. Our grandparents and
great-grandparents, more likely than not, knew
the people who produced a majority of the
food they bought and consumed. Today, food
is treated as a commodity to be produced as
efficiently, quickly and cheaply as possible.
The days when food producers were thought
of as artisans, crafting only the best foods out
of the means granted by God, have gone by
the wayside… or have they?
First, it just makes sense to support your
community and state. Secondly, local is
fresher, more seasonally appropriate and
thus, better tasting. A fruit or vegetable
that is harvested at the peak of ripeness in
its proper season will always be superior to
one that is force-fed and hothouse grown
in an artificial environment or flown in from
wherever in the world it is in season. Thirdly,
it’s greener (in more ways than one).
Compare the carbon footprint of food
from across town with that of food
shipped from across country, and it is
easy to see which would have less impact
on the environment. Shipping foodstuffs
in from across the globe is the extreme
example of this. The USDA Economics
Research Service offers tremendous data
on this topic.