Green Cuisine Takes Root in America’s Kitchens

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Green Cuisine Takes Root in America’s Kitchens

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Some call it sustainable cooking others clean cuisine, whatever you decide to call it, cooking with a conscience has finally caught up with most chefs and, sub sequentially, their clientele.

Chef and proprietor of Chicago’s White Oak Gourmet, Tom Leavett said “Chefs must be at the forefront of helping people re-connect with real food.” He added that most Americans have lost touch with the original sources of their food supply as a result of the convenience that comes from industrialized agriculture.

 

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Chef Stuart Donald of the Mars Hill Cafe in Mobile, Atlanta adds that “Alice Waters talked about sustainable foods in the early 1970s… Since then, it has gone from being a quirky sentiment to a full blown movement.” Although Sustainable may be a new catchword in the media, it’s remains tradition in the kitchen.

 

What Is Green Cuisine Anyway?

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Chefs define sustainable cooking in varied ways, but most accentuate the need to produce natural, healthy foods, preferably grown by locals who make use of environmentally responsible agricultural practices.

 

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Chef Stuart Donald says, “To me, sustainability means not trying to outsmart Mother Nature… Don’t mess with a plant’s genetic makeup. Don’t manipulate an animal’s life-cycle through diet or chemistry. Let nature take its course.” That typically means selecting non-genetically modified products, organic food, or fair trade goods at any time possible.

 

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Kitchens the world over are inclined to include sustainability principles in their everyday operations whichever way you choose to see it.

Putting Your Food Where Your Mouth Is

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Therefore, how are chefs able to implement working sustainability principles in the kitchen? For most, this entails thoughtfully selecting where to the source their products and trying to discover natural but local alternatives for everything they plan to use in the kitchen. For Chef Stuart Donald, that requires creatively developing seasonal menus that minimize the need for imported products, in this place, seafood.

 

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Chef Tom Leavett has built networks with local farms, composts his food scraps, and goes farther to encourage his clients to maintain their own gardens. Still, he finds it challenging, “Going sustainable in the kitchen is a journey,” says the chef. “It hasn’t been easy considering our country’s overwhelming dependence on industrially produced foods.”

Sustainable Culinary Schools Make their Mark

Just as culinary philosophies and trends continue to change, so should the culinary schools shaping tomorrow’s chefs. Sustainable cooking is no exception.

Dean of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts, Christopher Koetka says, “Our most important job is to help students developing a sustainability mindset… Sustainability is so much bigger than just buying locally or seasonally; it’s about a comprehensive behavioral change in the kitchen.”

 

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Instructors at Kendall College teach their students where food comes from and how it’s produced. Kendall’s fine dining restaurant locally sources 85% of all the foods it dishes up. The institution also provides the students with a large garden space to grow their own produce.

 

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Being one of the most renowned names in culinary schools, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is doing its part, too. It prides itself with a long tradition of integrating green principles in its curriculum, and most recently it has begun transitioning St. Andrew’s Cafe, a combined classroom and public restaurant on CIA’s Hyde Park Campus, to a green cuisine restaurant. The restaurant cum classroom recently received a two-star certification by the Green Restaurant Association.

 

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CIA Professor and St. Andrews Executive Chef Dan Turgeon had this to say,

“I’m amazed by how many [students] are aware of these issues… But many still don’t know where their food comes from. That’s what we’re trying to teach them.”

Finally, it should be noted that implementing a green cooking approach in culinary education may require persistence and patience but it is worth the time and effort.

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