Since launching this blog in January, I have received quite a few emails on the posting subjects. It is inspiring to learn of guests individual culinary experiences, and equally beneficial to hear our culinary associates viewpoints on food. Though I cannot respond to every posting, I thought a compilation of some of the questions I have received might make for further dialogue. Below is the third of three installments to a few of the questions I have been asked recently:
What's your take on cooking with organic and sustainable foods?
Organic really isn’t new though it would seem to be newly discovered from all of the media energy behind it. I think that’s always been the point of the slow food movement, to show the value of returning to a simpler, more seasonal approach to food and eating. For eons we cooked with the seasons and from the larder of the area. Modern technology of agriculture and shipping allowed us to expand the world’s diet, make foods available beyond the immediate region, and provide sustenance for more of the world’s population. As a result, the success encouraged more technology growth. Modernization may have gone a little too far though. It was cool to fly product from halfway around the world, but now with fuel prices, global warming, and all of the other carbon footprint concerns, the true cost of food is just now being uncovered.
Thankfully we are recognizing the importance of a global economy and a foundation of sustainable food sources with foods grown in a more healthful manner. Farmers Markets are now found in virtually every town. It may be cool and chic now, but if you think about it, this was the only way to shop less than 100 years ago. In the ever revolving circle of trends, it is great to see things come back to what is most important, the care and quality of the ingredients we cook with. Chefs can play a huge role in this, and they do so by insisting more data on the sources and growing methods used.
Does that mean we only eat strawberries in June, asparagus in April, and tomatoes in August? No, but eating locally and seasonally is something that we can be more cognizant of. Through selective procurement and environmentally conscious product selection, our chefs are rediscovering the purity of food.
We have great examples of Marriott Chefs doing incredible things with organic foods. Just take a look at Executive Chef Scott Simpson and the amazing team at the JW Desert Ridge in Phoenix, or Executive Chef Paul O’Conner and the Camelback Inn team. Both chefs lead by example, harvesting as much from their Kitchen Gardens, pursuing local sources for produce, and selecting truly artisanal product for their menu innovations. Simple food, great flavors, true passion. That’s what these chefs are all about.
What's on YOUR plate today?
It is nice to hear about Chef Simpson and Chef O'Conner. I know Chef Dean Max does a great job too! Marriott has the best chefs in the business!!
- John Gilbert
In some areas, using sustainable products might be a challenge, however one can start small. For example, if some local stores carry the products then they can tell you who the suppliers are. Start with one or two items that can be used as restaurant specials for example, I guarantee you, once you start other suppliers will present themselves.
Organic and sustainable ingredients are becoming the mantra of the day in kitchens across this country.
That is a blessing and also a curse. The blessing is that each of us in our own little kitchens can positively affect the food resources we use and the wholesomeness of the products we serve. For example, start small. Maybe growing some herbs to start would be a good introduction, look a local farmer's co-ops in your area, inspect your suppliers product lists to see what may already be available to you, but were unaware of. Also, be aware of proteins that are not sustainable andn in jeapardy of being wiped out. Items such as Chilean Seabass, which is in a precarious state of endangerment right now. Or, Orange Roughy from New Zealand, which has been virtually fished out. My point is to know what is available and deal with your guests/clients and educate them on options.
The curse of "organic" is that I fear soon it will become just a ubiquitous marketing term. The important meaning behind this food awareness could lose it's vitality simply from overuse of the term. This would dull our guests sensibilities to what we are trying to accomplish. To avoid this we need to provide good tasting quality food with organic products avialable to us. The meal is the reason they will come, organic products in the meal are the bonus.
Does anyone remember Cajun, Fusion, Pan-Asian, Nouvelle Cuisine, Nuevo Latino, Franco-Japanese, Comfort Food;American Regional, or any of the other Foodie labels that have littered our culinary landscape? Let's hope that organic and sustainable become a constant, not a fad.
-Chef John Usher