Chefs Share Sustainability Tips for Earth Day
As we gear up for Earth Day (April 22), several of the nation's premier chefs have shared sustainability tips straight from their acclaimed restaurants and their home kitchens.
The insider sustainability resources come from Chef Katie Reicher of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, Chef Owner Lisa Dahl of Dahl Restaurant Group in Sedona, Chef Proprietor David Kinch of Manresa, The Bywater and Mentone in Los Gatos, Chef Owner Amy Brandwein of Centrolina and Piccolina in Washington D.C., Chef Quentin Garcia of Rainbird, El Capitan, and Mainzer in Merced, Chef Nicholas Owen of Four Seasons Hotel in New Orleans, Chef Jason Francisco of Sugar Palm Ocean Ave at Viceroy in Santa Monica, Chef Aaron Allen of Silas Creative Kitchen + Cocktails at Hotel Versailles in Ohio, Chef Pujan Sarkar of ROOH in San Francisco and Palo Alto, Chef and Partner D. Brandon Walker of The Art Room in Los Angeles, and Chef Andy Arndt of VEA Newport Beach, a Marriott Resort & Spa.
Although these chefs serve different communities across the country, they all share the common belief that protecting the environment and offering their guests fresh food with the highest quality ingredients is paramount to caring for our natural surroundings and nourishing our bodies. They take their leadership roles regarding sustainability in the culinary space seriously and they offer advice with the hope that you'll join them in their crusade to protect our planet.
Katie Reicher, Executive Chef
Location: San Francisco
Brief Bio: Katie Reicher is Executive Chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, the nation's leading vegetarian destination founded in 1979. A Rockland County, New York native, she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2016 and then worked her way through multiple positions at Greens before eventually being named Executive Chef in 2020, continuing the rich legacy of female culinary leaders. With a comforting, seasonal, and wholesome food philosophy, she hopes that her guests leave Greens feeling nourished—physically, spiritually and emotionally.
1. Buy it once, use it twice! Save vegetable scraps that would otherwise be wasted and use it in thoughtful, tasty ways. Some easy and quick examples include using broccoli stems in soup or grate them for broccoli slaw, use pea pods for a light, springy vegetable stock, and save onion/carrot/celery trim in the freezer and use for stock when enough has been saved.
2. Plan meals with through-lines: Many cuisines have overlapping ingredients, so you can make exciting meals from different regions using very similar ingredients. Make a curry with chilies, cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and spices. Then use those same chilies, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes to make a fresh salsa. Overlapping the ingredients will ensure that you use everything that you purchase while keeping things interesting throughout the week!
3. Buy local - by far the best way to live sustainably is to buy local. Not only will you be supporting your community and economy, you will also benefit by buying the freshest, best tasting produce available for the lowest prices of the year. Farmers markets are an amazing way to get in touch with the seasons with a fraction of the carbon footprint.
Lisa Dahl, Chef and Restaurateur
Dahl Restaurant Group
Location: Sedona, Arizona
Brief Bio: Chef Lisa Dahl is one of the country's leading female chefs and restaurateurs who has pioneered the culinary scene in Sedona, Arizona. for more than 25 years. Dahl is the executive chef and CEO of five outstanding restaurants in Northern Arizona's red rock country where she has earned international acclaim for Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano, Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill, and Butterfly Burger, A Couture Burger Lounge. Along with being a two-time James Beard House-featured chef, Dahl was recently recognized with the prestigious top honor of "2019 Food Pioneer" award by the Arizona Restaurant Association's Foodist Awards where she also took home the honor of "2018 Top Chef" the previous year. She was also recently awarded the "Best Chefs of America Hall of Fame Award" by National Elite, a national restaurant industry organization. Dahl is the author of two memoir cookbooks: A Romance With Food and The Elixir of Life.
During the pandemic many chefs adapted new strategies based on necessity and in doing so they became much more conscious of the importance of cross refencing key items and sourcing. As a chef with multiple restaurants, I make sure to creatively maintain brand integrity while keeping quality control and communication about waste and environmental impact at the forefront of all cylinders within the company. We use recyclable packaging and keep takeout packaging products to the minimum. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes like teaching new dishwashers about separating plastics and bottles when recycling, ensuring the best practices with running faucets and waste disposal, all the way to being aware of the sourcing of china and silverware that can be lost from wasteful habits. It's not just food, but also the supply chain. I go twice a week to a large scale organic farm/grower which is 90 miles each way. In doing so, I have to think about the environmental footprint of buying organic or from buying from a more conventional supplier. They have promised for 15 years now to ensure that their ethos is followed: fish that follows Monterey Bay aquarium and ethical slaughter for meat as well as organic produce. This is far more expensive but is important to my staff and my guests who appreciate that Dahl restaurants are conscious of creating a great experience, not just in taste but also in quality control and sustainability.
Chef David Kinch, Chef/Proprietor
Manresa, The Bywater, Mentone
Location: Los Gatos, CA
Brief Bio: David Kinch, Chef/Owner of Manresa, has forged a distinctive culinary path putting him at the forefront of a contemporary California cuisine. Manresa has received extensive accolades including Three Stars from the Michelin Guide, a Five Star Forbes Travel Award, and membership in prestigious organizations such as Relais & Chateaux and Les Grande Tables du Monde. At Manresa—as well as at his restaurants The Bywater and Mentone—Kinch cultivates a sense of place, rooting the cuisine and perspective in the Central Coast through local sourcing and community involvement.
1. Cultivate local relationships – form a patchwork It's a quality issue. No one farm or purveyor can be expert in, and provide every ingredient. Each purveyor knows the best and most sustainable way to grow their ingredients or raise their animals. It takes work to form a patchwork and source ingredients from a multitude of local purveyors, but it's worth the time to find each and cultivate a growing relationship.
2. Invest in sustainability and take a long view Don't be wary about upfront costs for sustainability. At Manresa we actively and financially invest in sustainability with a dedicated on-staff Sustainability Coordinator, who focuses on cultivating new sustainable practices. Taking one example applicable for a home kitchen, one of the worst offenders is single-use plastic wrap. Making an up-front investment in reusable containers pays off in eliminating substantial plastic wrap use and provides a longer-term solution to storing food and ingredients.
3. Get creative with composting solutions Composting isn't always easy or readily available as a solution for food scraps. We've had to get creative with our composting, using sites like ShareWaste to find local composters; working with town co-ops; and partnering with local elementary and high schools and providing compost for their student gardening programs.
Amy Brandwein, Chef Owner
Centrolina & Piccolina
Location: Washington D.C.
Brief Bio: At Centrolina restaurant and market in City Center DC, Chef Owner Amy Brandwein shows Washingtonians the versatility and delicacy of Italian cuisine. The five-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee believes food should taste as good as in Italy, plated with poise, and viewed through the seasonal lens of the Mid-Atlantic—tenets she instills in her fast-casual project, Piccolina, an osteria that she opened across the alley from Centrolina in July 2019.
1. Buy locally at your farmers market or cooperative, specifically what is in season to limit the carbon footprint and support your local economy. When shopping, use canvas shopping bags instead of relying on disposable plastic bags.
2. Patronize local independent restaurants and cafes who are more likely to buy locally and less from centralized production facilities which may have unsustainable meat, fish and vegetable practices. Patronize restaurants that engage in sustainable food purchasing, whether that is vegetables, fish or meat. Ask questions about sourcing to your retailers, and by stressing the importance of this to you, it will encourage them to think more about sustainability and their purchases.
3. Minimize waste and get creative with the ingredients that are already in your kitchen.
4. Go to the Slow Food organization and James Beard Foundation to learn about their sustainability programs and their chef partners.
Quentin Garcia, Executive Chef
Rainbird, El Capitan, Mainzer
Location: Merced, CA
Brief Bio: Executive Chef Quentin Garcia brings a thoughtful and exciting new layer to Merced, CA, both inside and outside of the kitchen. After working in a variety of upscale restaurants around the world, Chef Quentin has developed an affinity for sourcing and studying ingredients, understanding flavors, and the importance of fostering a nurturing, positive kitchen environment. The embodiment of California's Central Valley is captured in Chef Quentin's dishes at Rainbird, which highlights his strong relationships with the local farming community in Merced and beyond. Chef Quentin also has a deep love for foraging which he often draws inspiration from for his vegetable-forward menu items.
1. Waste reduction- we practice utilizing our waste as much as we can away from the generalist notion of putting things up as specials. For example, fish/meat can be grinded down and used to make our own garums for use down the road in new menu items. Waste from vegetables are fermented and utilized in dishes to season ingredients without having to rely so heavily on just salt alone. If there is something we cannot ferment, then I try to dehydrate remainders and use this as an ingredient later to "rehydrate" and add a powerful flavor / textural contrast in a dish. This list can go on and on for waste, however, when waste is FINALLY just waste, compost is the answer or if the trimmings are safe, I'll give them to my sous chef, who then feeds them to her chickens.
2. Using creative plating opportunities when arisen. Foraging is a lot of fun and usually fields a huge bounty of ingredients beyond what was originally planned. In this instance, I was lucky enough to find a fallen tree out in the forest that was yielding its bark that was littered with wolfs moss. I broke it down into smaller pieces, dried it and used it as the very first serving piece to place our macaroons and amuse Bouche on. While just a little cool presentation it's using a natural resource as a centerpiece and showstopper. In the future I'd love to find some sort of natural clay deposit in the Central Valley that I can supply a pottery artist with for a new dish. That would be awesome to have one knowing that the team and I grabbed the clay ourselves from the earth.
3. The chef's table and all the wood we use in Rainbird's serving vessels are all from Merced's backyards with a unique story on each one. Our wood worker, George, rescues these trees before they get shredded or processed and he turns them into beautiful pieces of artwork that we can use as vessels to serve our courses on. These are by far some of the favorite details that guests have noticed when dining with us in the restaurant.
Nicholas Owen, Executive Chef
Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans
Location: New Orleans, LA
Brief Bio: Originally from Massachusetts, Chef Nicholas Owen has been a Four Seasons veteran since 2006, working at our hotels in Washington, DC, Singapore, Seoul and Kyoto – continually expanding his knowledge and skills. As Executive Chef, he oversees the Hotel's culinary vision, guiding his team and designing menus for large-scale events. "There's something very special about the food scene here in New Orleans," he says. "I'm very excited to partner with Chef Shaya and Chef Link as we share the city's unmatched cuisine with our guests from around the world."
One of the most impactful strategies for sustainability in the kitchen is minimizing food waste. In the Hotel, we prioritize purchasing from local vendors. This means we can place smaller orders and trust that the products we receive are always fresh and in season, while also minimizing the carbon impact of shipping. At home, this can be achieved through smaller, more frequent trips to the grocery store. Instead of bulk buying for the next few weeks, my family plans our meals around the produce available at the local market. This way, we're taking advantage of what is in-season and can avoid perishables, like salad greens, going to waste.
Jason Francisco, Executive Chef
Sugar Palm Ocean Ave at Viceroy Santa Monica
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Brief Bio: Originally from the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, Chef Jason Francisco started his career in restaurants after graduating top of his class from Le Cordon Bleu, Las Vegas. After graduating, Chef Jason went on to work in several award winning and Michelin starred restaurants like Comme Ça, Eataly, Cut, and The Raymond. As the Executive Chef at Sugar Palm, Chef Jason focuses on creating an ever-changing menu which reflects the diversity of the California Coastline as well as the ingredients in season.
1. Shopping Local: "By sourcing ingredients from within the region and reducing the miles our ingredients travel, I'm able to reduce our carbon footprint through cutting down on air pollution and fuel consumption. Additionally, by building relationships with local farmers at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, I am able to make more informed decisions on choosing ingredients that are sourced ethically with sustainable practices."
2. Upcycling Ingredients: "I prefer to use every part of an ingredient when creating my menus, upcycling ingredients helps to reduce food waste and challenges me to be as creative as possible when crafting dishes. I like to use the parts of the fruits that I don't use in a dish to create syrups and garnishes for the cocktail program, additionally, I'll use meat and veggie scraps to make stocks for soups and other dishes."
Aaron Allen, Executive Chef
Silas Creative Kitchen + Cocktails at Hotel Versailles
Location: Versailles, OH
Brief Bio: Aaron Allen was recently named Executive Chef of Silas Creative Kitchen + Cocktails at the luxury boutique property, Hotel Versailles, opening this May. Born and raised in Ohio, he earned his degree from Wright State University and shortly after started his culinary career at Rue Dumaine in Dayton, Ohio, where he worked alongside James Beard Award-winning chef Anne Kearney. Over the last 14 years, he has worked in a number of world-famous, Michelin star restaurants across the country that helped pave the way for his fully farm-supplied, farm.to-table restaurant, Silas Creative Kitchen + Cocktails.
One of the penultimate responsibilities as a professional chef is learning to work sustainably. Sourcing local ingredients and producing more in-season vegetable focused dishes help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to improving our carbon footprint. To eliminate waste, I always make pickles or fermentations with excess vegetables and dry cure meats for our charcuterie program to utilize any excess proteins. I also actively participate in the Monterey Bay Aquarium sustainable seafood program to maintain an ongoing awareness of which species can be sourced safely.
Chef Pujan Sarkar, Chef de Cuisine
Location: San Francisco and Palo Alto
Brief Bio: Chef Pujan Sarkar was born in Kalyani, India and moved to San Francisco with 12 years of culinary knowledge of traditional Indian cuisine. He graduated from the Culinary Academy of India and started his journey with Princess Cruises, then moved back to India to join Club Mahindra Holidays, the largest timeshare hospitality chain in India, which allowed him to travel throughout the country. He used this opportunity to study the vast Indian Territory deeper, exploring various herbs & spices to develop a number of recipes using the knowledge he had gained from his time traveling abroad. Those experiences set him up for the creation of novel recipes in his most recent venture as the Head Chef for Ek Bar. Chef Pujan was awarded the 2018 Sous Chef of the Year at Third Annual Bay Area Saucy Awards, in addition appeared on the Food Network television show Chopped and resulted in second place overall in the competition.
To better understand where our food comes from and how it's grown, I visit farms and harvest squash, tomatoes, carrots and a whole lot of other vegetables. This rudimentary connection between taking fresh food and learning real lessons sustains us for a better food future. When picking the fresh vegetables straight from the soil, one thing is always striking my mind- let's keeps this continuing throughout my entire life and for the coming generations. As told by scientists and various agencies, by 2045 we will be producing 40% less food than what we are producing right now. Our population will be 9.3 billion and agricultural soil will be depleted heavily across the world. On this Earth Day, we need to take an oath to regenerate soil through various ways and save the soil so that we can pass this wealth to our future generations.
D. Brandon Walker, Executive Chef & Partner
The Art Room
Location: Downtown Los Angeles
Brief Bio: Partner and Executive Chef D. Brandon Walker opens The Art Room—a one-of-a-kind café, restaurant, and gallery space—at the corner of 9th and Olive in Downtown LA. A native Angeleno with two decades of restaurant and philanthropic leadership experience in L.A.'s westside communities, Walker is bringing his expertise to a new community. Having led the St. Joseph's Culinary Training Program and worked as a consultant for several other non-profit training programs, Walker is poised to intertwine his philanthropic hiring model with a restaurant-gallery hybrid that brings arts, culture, and inexpensive fast-casual options to a neighborhood eager for such a hub.
My biggest tip to bringing sustainability to the forefront in the culinary space is sourcing ingredients from local urban farms. For my concepts, I work with Compton based non-profit and urban farm, Alma Backyard Farms, an organization that provides the formerly incarcerated with essential job skills for stable careers. Not only does this support local food production, but it also empowers communities through sustainable and equitable labor to break free from generational incarceration and houselessness. Additionally, I would highly recommend working to source from or even create neighborhood backyard produce to source from, if Urban Farms are not an option especially in bigger city areas. Utilizing ingredients for all their parts even to the "bitter end" is a great way to make sure you create minimal waste in your kitchens. I tend to use unconventional ingredients to make everyday recipes to do just that. For example, I recommend taking beet greens and carrot tops that would normally be discarded as scraps and incorporating them into your pestos, gremolatas, sautées and dressings. There are so many ways to use every part of ingredients. You just have to get creative. Additionally at my dining concepts, I strive to incorporate compostable materials as much as possible in order to reduce landfill waste. Things like compostable plates and to go containers will be available at The Art Room.
Andy Arndt, Executive Chef
VEA Newport Beach, a Marriott Resort & Spa
Location: Newport Beach, CA
Brief Bio: Executive Chef Andy Arndt has been working with the Marriott brand for nearly 15 years, first at the Rihga Royal in New York City, then at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront in Portland, Oregon, before moving to VEA Newport Beach (formerly the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa) to transform the culinary program alongside the property's $65 million reimagining into the community's newest luxury travel destination. His goal is to create experiences from arrival to departure, with every aspect designed to create memorable moments and supply a "wow" factor. Being close to home in Southern California has been a source of inspiration, as Arndt utilizes local purveyors to show international guests what the region has to offer.
We try to stay within a 50–100-mile max radius for our purchasing of vegetables and proteins. This not only cuts pollution and greenhouse gases, but also supports the local. Working the season into the menus is another way to be mindful of the environment. We were also doing 100% sustainable seafood in partnership with Seafood Watch until the pandemic hit and we began undergoing our renovation. It was a wonderful opportunity to educate our guests on bycatch fish (which are the fish picked up in large nets that are typically thrown out) as well as smaller breeds and not the big-name fish (such as halibut, albacore, etc.), and offer an ecofriendly approach that doesn't deplete the supply chain.