The entire globe will celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2008. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, a great deal has been learned about the impact we have on our environment. Professional kitchens of hotels and restaurants have an opportunity to positively address this. We are an integral part of the carbon footprint chain, and have collective influence on those that produce, pack, ship and develop food in addition to the eventual disposal of materials used in its service.
In the Marriott test kitchen, compostable and recyclable materials are separated to minimize landfill refuse. Our disposables are compostable corn based products. Tasting spoons and plates go right into the green tub along with any food trimmings. Landfill items are separated from the few things that can’t be composted or recycled. This initiative really took hold in 2001 when longtime Test Kitchen Operations Manager and Chef, John Brunski, took on the challenge. John’s summer garden produces incredible heirloom tomatoes and vegetables, grown purely organically. His passion for organics resulted in a kitchen with a carbon conscience. Nearly 30 years ago when I worked in Hawaii, we separated all of our food waste to trade to the local pig farmer for 2 luau pigs each week. We didn’t call it eco-friendly then, but in hindsight it was the ultimate gesture of resource management!
Our hotel kitchens are turning green. The JW Marriott Grande Lakes chefs of Melissa Kelly’s Primo restaurant tend to their onsite organic vegetable garden, and the hotel’s kitchens separate all compostable material. We are addressing the energy used in our stoves, ovens, and grills through managing them based on when they are needed. An oven fired up at 3 and not used until 6 is three hours of energy with no return on investment. More energy efficient and quicker recovery technology is retooling how kitchens are designed. Low temperature, higher humidity ovens like the programmable Combi-ovens and C-VAP cook-n-hold ovens not only save energy, but cook food with with accuracy and flavor. Building in the necessary space for waste separation bins in kitchen design is also critical for any serious effort to succeed. More importantly though less acknowledged, is the fact that better food production management produces less waste. It is estimated that 20% of the entire carbon footprint of food is wasted due to spoilage and over production throughout the food chain. Think of that next time you make dinner at home, or go to the grocery store without a list!
I am challenging our chefs to look each day at ways we can better conserve and be responsible stewards of our environment. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. A good slogan, but real things we can do in our global effort of just making great food.
What’s on YOUR plate today?
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
4 Large Heirloom Tomatoes (about 3 ½ pounds)
(Suggested varieties Boxcar Willie, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Brandywine OTV, Stupice, Black Krim, Juan Flamme) Cut into Large cubes
1/2 Pound-Country Style italian Bread, crusts removed, cut into 1” cubes
1 Cup-Thinly sliced Red Onion
2 Tsp.-Garlic, minced
1/4 Cup-Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup-Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup-Basil, rough chopped
1/4 Cup-Italian Parsley, rough chopped
Salt to taste
Ground Black Pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes, bread, onions, and hebs.
Whisk together the garlic, vinegar and oil. Pour over the tomato salad and let sit for 15 minutes.
Add the basil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Serve.
I would like to applaud you and Marriott on all of the efforts to go green in the kitchen. My family has certainly made an effort to do the same, and we eat as much organic produce and meat as possible. It is nice to know that when we travel we can keep it up and eat organic on vacation.
On a different note...have you ever thought about adding more Gluten Free items to the menus nationwide? Celiac's disease is so widespread now, that I among many friends and family would appreciate if hotels would add Gluten Free items to the restaurant menus and room service menus.
Thank you for all that you do!