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Organic Matters

Organic Matters

Working with sustainable purveyors can help the environment—and your bottom line

Between local, seasonal and farm-to-table ingredients, more restaurants have taken interest in procuring their ingredients closer to the source. The more chefs look into this method of purchasing proteins and produce, the more they get to know the farmers and purveyors who sell to them—and it’s starting to make a difference.

Sourcing your ingredients from places that put an emphasis on sustainable or organic farming shows a commitment to the environment. It also shows an importance in knowing where that product comes from. That then sends your diners a message you take extra steps to ensure they’re getting the freshest ingredients possible from farmers you know more about.

You may think you’ll spend more if you buy food raised sustainably, but if you’re cooking seasonally, the food will arrive to your kitchen at its peak. Oftentimes that means you’ll buy—and spend—less to get the most out of it.

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Publican, Chicago

“If you have a beautifully raised chicken living a great life, the meat will taste better and you get a better yield,” says Sieger Bayer, chef de cuisine at the Publican, in Chicago. “Maybe you use 13,000 chickens per year instead of 20,000. It’s less impact on the environment and less is more.”

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Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar, Kansas City, Mo.

Sheila Lucero, executive chef of Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar in Kansas City, Mo. (as well as five locations in Colorado), adds that by bringing freshly caught seafood caught in season to land-locked diners, she helps highlight the work of these fishermen on the coasts while supporting their hard work and, in turn, buying higher-quality product.

“That quality is there because of their mindfulness, fishing in season and following the lines of quotas of seasonality of seafood,” Lucero says. “When you adhere to those things and are mindful, you support people doing like mindedness.”

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Fruitive, D.C., Virginia

At his five locations in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, not only does Gregg Rozeboom, founder and CEO of plant-based chain Fruitive, source organic ingredients, his restaurants are also certified 100 percent organic.

“I’m very passionate about our impact on the environment,” Rozeboom emphasizes. “While there’s only a handful of restaurants that have gone through the process of being certified, I’ve seen more chefs over the last five years choosing organic ingredients. That’s what their customers want.”

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Odd Duck and Barley Swine, Austin

In addition to better yield, food sourced in season from sustainable farms generally offers more robust flavor, which in turn allows you to do less to the final product. Bryce Gilmore, chef/partner of Austin’s Odd Duck and Barley Swine restaurants, notes that when you start with quality ingredients, it’s easier to make flavorful dishes. Beyond that, however, you’re also participating in helping the environment.

“There is great reward in sourcing from responsible farmers that employ sustainable practices,” Gilmore says. “Their product is better and you are helping steer this industry in the right direction. If we ignore what’s going on with climate change, it’s only going to get worse and none of this will matter anymore.”

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