I love the changing of the seasons, particularly the bittersweet end of summer leading into autumn, the local harvest is providing a particularly abundant harvest of flavorful ingredients. It seems like a great time to talk about my passion for using locally sourced, organic, healthy ingredients in my restaurants and at home.
In 1988 at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, we learned about how high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils were scientifically modified products that were very detrimental to overall health. It was at that moment that I realized that not everything in our food supply is wholesome or healthy. The light of my awareness began to turn on. My time in Europe opened my eyes to a market-driven menu. It was a very foreign concept to me go to the farmers market to determine what was going to be on the menu. This is really the way the Europeans eating for thousands of years.
I began shopping at the farmers market upon returning to America and cooking at the Full Moon Grill. I can remember the feeling of satisfaction supporting our hard-working farmers, loading up the back of my truck with fresh produce. Getting to know these farmers and learning about the efforts they put into their crops to produce organic food has given me tremendous respect for the local organic farming community. I have created many lifelong friendships with the people that grow food for our restaurants.
Reading the Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan was another turning point. I learned about the dark side of factory farming, antibiotic abuse, animal abuse and so began my mission to learn more about food sourcing. Coincidentally at that time, I became a father and now had twins. Now that I was responsible for the health and well-being of these other people, I became very aware of what I was putting into their bodies as well as my own. Since then I’ve been on a quest that has chosen me. I believe I’m here to help people to be more aware of how their food choices affect there help the Health of the planet in the life of the animals they consume.
Using organic and locally sourced ingredients is definitely a tough decision to make for chefs and restaurateurs. The extra effort these farmers take to produce GMO-free, organic produce calls for extra work, more time, and more product loss. This results in a higher price for chefs and restaurateurs purchasing this food for their restaurants, which in turn creates a higher price for guests when ordering from these restaurants’ menus. It’s a tough call to make, especially when the guest doesn’t always understand why one restaurant’s menu items cost so much more than another. I greatly appreciate other chefs that make that sacrifice. Thankfully, this is becoming more and more prevalent in the restaurant industry. Chefs throughout the country are taking part in responsibly sourcing their ingredients as often as possible.
It would be easy for me to ramble on about the politics of food, GMOs and social impact of outsourcing from other countries, but I’m not here to preach. At the end of the day, I want to serve my guests with the same food that I would serve my family. It’s as simple as that.