Says San Francisco restaurateurs and co-founder of Zero Foodprint, Anthony Myint. Zero Foodprint is a nonprofit organisation, which serves as a resource for restaurants and food service providers that want to find a solution to fight against climate change by, for example, reducing their carbon footprint. To date, there are around 30 restaurants that have achieved carbon-neutral status under this organisation's program, including three-Michelin-starred restaurant Benu in San Francisco.
Myint adds that in many countries, the restaurant is the largest part of the food system economically, larger than farming and retail. It means that they have the largest responsibility to reduce their carbon output and fight climate change. Many chefs and restaurateurs are overwhelmed with the challenges and finance of daily operation, doing the right thing need to be very legible, very practical and very impactful, he says. Zero Foodprint helps restaurants to assess their carbon output and provides guidance to reduce their "foodprint".
Copenhagen based restaurant Noma has always been the leader of the sustainable movement within the culinary industry. Noma is well-known for how they respect nature and locality. When Noma opened in 2003 by the visionary chef René Redzepi, the eatery's philosophy was; the food should be sourced nearby and seasonal. Noma idea was laughable at that time: a high-end restaurant without French pigeons, foie gras and caviar and only depends on local ingredients. Up against all odds, the chefs started to look at the ingredients' flow every month and adjust the menu based on seasonality and locavorism. Noma believes that their approach will drive the business far forward.
Hence, the normal view in Noma includes some foragers who scour from coastline and woodland come with a large plastic basket loaded with scurvy grass, samphire, pea shoots, beach mustard, purslane, beach beets, sea arrowgrass. While the herbs come from their own massive garden, which adorned with an earthy and organic smell. When the winter comes, and the vegetable is not widely available locally, Noma's menu alters to seafood, in which at this season around the fish are abundant.
With all the respect to nature that is going on in Noma, World's 50 Best List named Noma as the world's second-best restaurant in 2019 and voted as the best restaurant in the world four times consecutively (2010-2014) by the same institution. It proves that, after all, their idea of sourcing locally wasn't laughable at all. Now, Noma inspires many restaurants in the world on how green sustainable culinary can be successful.
While Noma knows since the beginning that they opt for a sustainability approach, Bresca, a one-Michelin-star restaurant, has a different story. Chef Ryan Ratino, the owner of this stylish restaurant, joined Zero Foodprint in 2018, and it was the first restaurant in Washington D.C. to engage with this initiative. Ratino states that it's always room for improvement in all areas and one of those is being sustainable. He considers that the move is crucial as a part of the solution to mitigate climate change.
The first step Bresca needed to do was to assess their foodprint by analysing all the ingredients to find out the total carbon footprint. Further, to audit their energy use and improve its efficiency. Through this assessment, Ratino identified that in-demand cuts of meat and a continuous resource of vegetables like asparagus were the huge factors contributing to Bresca's carbon output. Alongside as a French eatery, Bresca uses a lot of butter in their cooking.
Subsequently, Ratino removed strip loin from the menu in favour of chicken and using only local asparagus during its season and changed the cow butter for goat butter. Aside, Bresca is opting to implement "no plastic" mantra throughout the restaurant. The side effect of going carbon neutral is saving restaurant money—like not buying countless plastic spoons and sourcing less butter.
"We are just a small part of what needs to happen — everything we do has an effect on the planet and climate change," says Retino.
Camilla Marcus is one of the restaurateurs and chefs who was forced to close her West-bourne restaurant in New York due to Covid-19's impact. Even so, she still believes that sustainability is the key in hospitality industry, especially during this pandemic; thus, she continues to pay health insurance for her employees. Her vision is West-bourne, which opened in 2018—could be a zero-waste, mission-driven and vegetable-forward, with an unapologetic focus on the team's well-being and neighbourhood. West-bourne was the first restaurant in New York City to receive TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification from Green Business Certification.
When she talks about a sustainable solution for a restaurant, Marcus means menu engineering, incorporating by-products into new culinary creations, and assessing sourcing, suppliers, and agricultural practices. And not only that, but she also put wellness as the main core of her business. Her latest initiative was to provide childcare for her employees during their shifts to accommodate the unusual working hours for her employees. Indeed, the West-bourne business model is quite one-of-a-kind for restaurant business; another example is the non-hierarchy system where restaurant employees rotate to work at every station: washing dishes, cooking, and serving. There is no pay difference between the front and back of the house.
Marcus seems optimistic about the future of West-bourne; she says:
*Read as well on How Japanese Fight Against Food Waste
+ Words: Alvia Zuhadmono, Luxiders Magazine
Sustainable Communication student| Sweden-based writer
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