Posted on September 6, 2006

Bon Appétit challenges chefs to source locally

Sustainable food chain hosts second annual Eat Local Challenge

On Oct. 3, hundreds of Bon Appétit restaurants and cafés across America will serve a lunch made entirely of ingredients from within a 150-mile radius of each kitchen.

Palo Alto, Calif., -based Bon Appétit Management Company, an onsite custom restaurant company for corporations, colleges and universities, and specialty venues, wants to show the importance of local versus organic, and about the impact of “food miles” – the distance food travels from the farm to the plate.

The company is hosting the second annual Eat Local Challenge, where 400 Bon Appétit chefs in 29 states will figure out “culinary conundrums” such as how to find local yeast for sourdough bread, how to make their own salt, and since corn for corn syrup isn’t locally grown, what they can substitute for industrially made soda products.

“By the time you raise a fork to your mouth, your food may have traveled 2,000 miles,” said Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio. “The preservation and transportation methods necessary for such a journey use an enormous amount of fuel, damage the environment, and strip food of its flavor.”

Bon Appétit has been a proponent of sustainably sourced foods since 1999, when Bauccio issued a mandate to buy extensively from local farmers and artisans. Bon Appétit has developed sustainable food programs with Environmental Defense, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and other conservation organizations.

Bon Appétit’s clients include Oracle Corporation, American University and the Getty Center.

“As the Challenge draws nearer, chefs are tearing apart the countryside in search of local food treasures,” the company said. “Oregon chefs are negotiating with a local bakery to supply specially-made, all local rustic white and wheat bread for sandwiches. In northern California, chefs are hot on the trail of short-harvest Gravenstein apples – an aromatic and extremely delicate fruit that will become local apple juice for as many cafés as possible. And in Ohio, the search is on for local shrimp farmers… That’s right, Midwestern crustaceans!”

Farmers around the nation are also gearing up for the challenge, the company said.

“For many, it will be the beginning of a long-standing relationship with Bon Appétit; one that offers economic stability year-round – most importantly during the harsh winter months,” the company said.

For some farmers, Bon Appétit purchases account for as much as 25 percent of their farm revenue.

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