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Haute Cuisine Gone Green: James Beard Foundation Focuses on Sustainability

Two miles north of Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street‘s encamped, there’s another would-be hotspot of cultural change occupying a more genteel locale: the James Beard Foundation (JBF). Seriously? This epicurean epicenter housed in an elegant West Village brownstone with eternally well-tended window boxes, wants to stir up something more culturally significant than mouth-watering meals curated by celebrity chefs?

Well, yes. And it’s a logical move, if they don’t want to see their legacy (or their democracy) go down the toilet. After all, as Mario Batali once pointed out on CBS Sunday Morning, “When you think about it, all my greatest work is poop, tomorrow.” Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Helene York

Helene York is both an educator and coach for Bon Appétit Management Company, the socially responsible food service company that operates more than 400 on-site cafés for universities, corporate employers, and museums in 31 states. She is also the director of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, whose mission is to educate chefs and consumers about how their food choices affect the global environment and to catalyze changes in the supply chain. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: Chocolate with Dignity

Chocolate. For many of us, the sight, aroma and tongue coating decadence are enough to send the brain’s pleasure receptors into overdrive. Seemingly always prized, it has been used over hundreds of years as an offering in religious ceremonies, a currency, and often reserved for the ruling elite. Interest in chocolate often borders on obsession, so much so, that the botanical name for the cacao plant, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the Gods.” Those who testified to the chocolate gospel helped spread it around the world and it has since come to bring simple pleasure to citizens far and wide, high and low across the planet.

Sadly, however, there is a dark side to chocolate that many consumers are often blissfully unaware of, or deliberately chose to ignore. Cacao is grown predominantly on small family farms in a narrow tropical band around the equator. While a handful of massive global corporations control and profit handsomely from the worldwide chocolate trade, millions of cacao farmers and their families toil in poverty year after year and deforestation is widespread. Worse still, child slavery tragically persists, despite reputable international reports that surfaced over a decade ago–in particular highlighting the world’s largest exporter of cocoa, the Ivory Coast. Read more

Sustainable Food Sourcing: It’s Worth Yelling About

Over the last five years as I have worked to create—and yes, enforce—sustainable sourcing policies in my job, I’ve been publicly called a carbon cop, the food police, something I can’t print (my corporate Web browser even blocks access to the site) and, as of yesterday morning, an “eco-Nazi.” Most of my critics don’t know me and some of them don’t know what I do. It’s a good thing I don’t take name-calling personally!

A blogger thought yelling was an inappropriate reaction when I learned that one of our chefs posted a bluefin tuna recipe. (Yelling is bad, but calling someone an eco-Nazi isn’t?) Hey, I’m from Brooklyn. I’m not quiet and I’m going to let you know what I think. But there’s a method to my (loud-mouthed) madness. Read more

One Week, Four Fish

It’s my first week on the job at Bon Appétit Management Company, and Helene York is across the hall, yelling into the phone about tuna fish.

To be more exact, she’s making some heads roll because I found a recipe for bluefin tuna posted on one of our cafe’s Web sites. It’s not like every dish, on every Web site, at every cafe can be policed, seeing that we have over 400 cafes equipped with fiercely autonomous chefs. But clearly, Helene expects more from our chefs—a lot more. Read more

Feeding College Students One Garden at a Time

With all the current discussion around improving school food, university food has been less-covered territory. Sure, it isn’t always funded by the government, but changing the way college students eat is an opportunity for better student health and the local economy. That was the impetus for creating Bon Appetit Management Company’s Comprehensive Student Garden Guide [pdf], a road map to starting, promoting and managing campus vegetable gardens as a force for bringing local produce to the college lunch room — where a campus full of hungry mouths and a budget means buying from student farmers becomes a logical option. Read more