ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Behind the Green Chef

When I interviewed Michael Oshman of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) recently for a Wall Street Journal story, he mentioned that the restaurant industry is the largest consumer of electricity in the U.S. retail sector. It also accounts for half the food budget of the average American. No doubt that's a hefty footprint, but good restaurateurs are known for being nimble, and can adapt changes quickly.

While menu-boasting of shade grown organic coffee or juicy grass-fed burgers topped with local artisanal cheese is often the easiest way to identify a restaurant that’s going green, the real impact comes from changes in the back of the house.

Oshman estimates that the installation of two high efficiency hand dryers – one each restroom – will cost $1,415, but can provide an annual savings of $2,651 and reduce 1,620 pounds of paper towels waste. The installation of a high-efficiency gas-fired charbroiler vs. a conventional one can save 10 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

Chef Jose Duarte, of Taranta in Boston, recently embraced his inner greenness and certified his restaurant in October 2007. Since then, he’s converted his truck to run on fryer oil, offers a wine list that’s organic, biodynamic and sustainable, composts food scraps, and has a full-scale recycling program. Duarte estimates that he’s reduced 80 metric tons (176,370 pounds) of carbon dioxide a year by making changes to his operations. That’s roughly equivalent to taking 180 cars off the road annually.

But what’s interesting -- with all the changes he’s made, he’s just now starting to look at sourcing his food locally. It’s not easy to do year-round in New England, but I would have thought that would be higher up on the to-do list, since it’s a change that’s so visible to customers. But then again, maybe it’s not all about the marketing.
Clare Leschin-Hoar