What does it mean to be a sustainable restaurant?

Anne-Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC food columnist – reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s previous work includes writing about food for eight years at OC Weekly in which she interviewed over 330 chefs, restaurateurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she is also a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

While it’s hard enough to run a restaurant, for a few establishments, chefs choose to take additional responsibility for their own actions by practicing sustainability. I wanted to see how two local businesses practice Earth Day on a daily basis.

Sustainability comes in many forms. It can be as simple as switching from plastic to reusable straws (or eliminating them altogether). Composting waste is another more complex method to reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Choosing to buy fruits or vegetables at farmers’ markets instead of stores that ship produce from other states not only supports local growers, but reduces the carbon footprint created by shipping goods. Training yourself and others in sustainable actions to preserve the environment goes a long way towards improving our future.

Farm at Roger’s Gardens

Located on the grounds of Roger’s Gardens (a destination for garden and home design) in Corona del Mar, Farmhouse’s mission is to support local artisan and shop owners who are aware of what is happening in their products and how they are made. Billed as a field-to-fork dining experience, the kitchen has also begun offering pre-ordered weekly produce boxes as well as a curbside market of chicken and vegetable broths, pickled vegetables and produce. bakery.

Executive chef and owner Rich Mead brought the concept of the farm to life in 2016, planning the menu and getting involved in areas such as design and indoor operations. His restaurant experience spans decades with previous ventures that included local favorites Sage in Newport Beach, Sage on the Coast along PCH in Newport Coast, and Canyon Restaurant in Anaheim Hills.

What is the Ecology Center?

Operating as a working farm, produce stand, and educational center in San Juan Capistrano, the Ecology Center has been an outdoor community classroom for a decade. He strives to set an example for future organic farms across the country. Bridging the gap between food and agriculture, the center welcomes volunteers and organizes events throughout the year, connecting like-minded people through mentorship and learning more about ecology during of a shared meal.

However, it is Mead’s relationships with growers and breeders that he is best known for. His commitment to providing the highest quality local grains, proteins and vegetables translates into donating his time to non-profit organizations such as The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, where he is one of founding chefs of its annual Green Feast fundraiser. Recently, I bumped into Mead at Community Table, a series of dinner parties with different guest chefs designing a meal around The Ecology Center’s four seasonal rotations: cover crops, berries, milpa (a farming method involving planting multiple crops and varieties in a single field) and market gardening.

In all of Farmhouse’s selections, ingredients are sustainably sourced from family suppliers and local farms. According to Mead, “By only using locally seasonal ingredients and buying directly from producers, the restaurant is able to minimize environmental impact by using less packaging and reducing gas emissions at greenhouse effect since food has fewer miles to travel.”

He also believes in producing minimal food waste, using as many ingredients as possible. An example of this is found in a dish of roasted carrots and burrata cheese; its carrot leaves are reused in a pesto sauce. Chef Mead also uses liver (the part of a chicken that many restaurants would normally throw out) in his Chicken Liver Pâté.

Other ways Farmhouse practices sustainability include eco-friendly take-out containers and utensils; its straws come from bamboo. Just beyond the entrance to the restaurant, fennel and herbs are grown on site, which are used to flavor cocktails and entrees.

In honor of Earth Day, Farmhouse will donate 50% of sales of its Spaghetti Squash and Braised Green Enchilada Entree today to the Environmental Nature Center (ENC), a five-acre landscape for learning through wilderness camps, professional development and scouting programs. and other opportunities while maintaining a strict zero waste policy. The mixed dish combines produce from a number of local producers, including Milliken Family Farm Brussels sprouts, blue corn tortillas produced by the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project, Schaner Family Farms spaghetti squash and Weiser Family Farms carrots.

Oceans and Earth

At Yorba Linda, Oceans and Earth by Barbie Wheatley and Adam Navidi is named to highlight the relationship between the restaurant and nature. This is accomplished through specialized agricultural techniques, research and education. “As a farmer, I remember every day how much nature teaches us patience and perseverance,” Navidi said. Oceans and Earth’s extensive menu features steaks, flatbreads, tacos, salads, and burgers. Particular care is taken in the preparation of items such as homemade gluten-free brioches baked to order.

Chef Navidi grew up in Orange County with a knack for gardening at a young age. At age 15, he enrolled in cooking classes at the Northern Orange County Regional Professional Program (ROP). He moved to Vail, Colorado when he was 17 to gain real-world experience. Yet it was during his apprenticeship at the Broken Top Country Club in Bend, Oregon, four years later, that Navidi realized his preference for high-end cuisine.

He moved to Seattle to attend culinary school. Water’s Edge, along Lake Washington, hired him as a chef after graduation. Navidi spent his mornings at Pike’s Place Market buying freshly caught seafood and the freshest produce. Education and movement in his career would contribute to another stint in Bend until he was homesick, bringing him back to catering in Orange County for three years before moving to Napa where he continued to learn at the Culinary Institute of America.

Vertical lettuce crops at Future Food Farms. Credit: Photo courtesy of Oceans & Earth Restaurant

Armed with new inspiration, he returned home a second time to run his own restaurant group while balancing duties at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa. Hyatt would be his last venture before deciding to focus on building a restaurant of his own.

Agricultural zoning regulations would prevent Navidi from realizing his dream of building a modern urban farm behind his commercial restaurant, allowing him to farm and cook on the same property. The loophole he discovered was to instead host dinner parties on a 25-acre site that would be Future Foods Farms in Brea. His advanced farming method is known as aquaponics, a soilless cultivation system by raising fish (in Navidi’s case, tilapia) and using the nutrient-rich water in the tanks to fertilize green vegetables. , vegetables, fruits and herbs for sale and use in his restaurant. Oceans and Earth will finally open in 2014.

The last chronicles of Anne Marie Panoringan

I interviewed Navidi in 2017, but met him at Table for 10, an annual gala to benefit the Pascal Olhats Culinary Arts Fellowship, the proceeds of which have gone towards setting up funding for students from Saddleback Culinary Arts College and Orange Coast Culinary Arts School. Each participating chef imagined and executed a memorable feast for their assigned table (featuring creative table settings and interactive components), assisted by students from both schools.

Along with his accomplishments with Future Foods Farms, another sustainable practice Chef Navidi uses is reusing items from his restaurant – he recently sanded and refinished a table made from old wooden cutting boards. Note: Brea location recently closed, although much of it has been moved to Lake Elsinore, while other components are kept in Navidi’s personal greenhouse and 1,000 gallon aquaponics system .

Navidi is also a consultant for Orange Coast College on its aquaponic greenhouse. “For my business, it’s not just about growing food for my restaurant. It’s about teaching others and making farming cool again through innovative technology,” he said. It has partnerships with several colleges, including Cal State Fullerton, to train students in sustainable agriculture.

Anne Marie Panoringan is food columnist for arts and culture at Voice of OC. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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