Episodes

EPISODE 26: The Chef’s World View – Part II

In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?

 

The Truth is out there…so we’re told.

 


 

Welcome to Part II in a 3-part series we’re calling, HEY YOU, WHAT’S FOR DINNER?“, which has a very specific agenda. Your Special Agents have made it their mission as foodies to help readers learn about the attention paid to food sourcing, the outlook for their long-term global viability and how chefs around the world are becoming some of the most ardent voices for sustainability. Today we’re exploring the chef’s world view. Plan on discovering information that will inspire you and learn about some incredible foods, all the while having fun with your favorite Green Team!

 

WILLIAM: I learned something interesting the other day from Chef Ashley Mitchell our Executive Sous Chef at Affairs to Remember Caterers. The Sales team was attending one of our many new menu items tastings. In these meetings we learn about, vet and refine new dishes that we plan to offer to our clients. The discussion was steered toward the concept of “local, farm-to-table” food sources and their place within our line of products. She mentioned that the real momentum in the hospitality world toward purchasing locally produced raw ingredients in restaurants, hotels, institutions and by caterers like us derived largely for reasons other than public demand.

 

PATRICK: Let me guess, somewhere along the line a situation developed where “the money talked and the California-grown veggies walked“, right?

 

WILLIAM: You called it right, Agent Cuccaro! Once the major foodservice distributors found out that they would SAVE MONEY by NOT sourcing and shipping cross-country, or in many cases even across continents, then the local farms and producers all across the nation started to get their attention. Of course, you have our revered farmers and producers whose mission it is to improve the world by producing local and organic foods. But, you also have many more farms run by folks simply trying to make a living for their family, the same as they have been for years.

 

So, this focus shift by the foodservice conglomerates became very good news for the local producers all across the country. Now they are sought after and many have even achieved notoriety, whereas before many were mostly anonymous.

 

PATRICK: I would imagine that when the big distributors get in the mix, they have great purchasing power that would benefit the local producers. But, I am sure it comes with a price.

 

WILLIAM: True. The jury is still out on the overall impact and price paid by the local producer who gets picked up by the big distributors. But clearly, demand for locally grown and oftentimes organic locally grown is way, way up.

 

PATRICK: American food culture in general is changing day by day for the better. As applied to food, restaurants and the chefs that make them successful, sustainability is no longer something on the wishlist but something on the primary checklist of most forward-thinking operators. Clearly the foodservice industry and its supply chains are trying to adjust and keep up with this burgeoning demand.

 

Affairs to Remember's on-premise Chef's Garden

 

WILLIAM: The info I garnered from Chef Ashley made me look into the overall sustainable mindset of some of the world’s most respected chefs. I wanted to know how their selection of ingredients had an affect on the local farming community and the supply chain in general. I also wanted to know how the menus they write have evolved and if they now mostly conceived from locally sourced ingredients.

 

As I did my investigating, several things stood out as common among these culinary giants.

 

First, without exception, the whole concept of sustainability was tied directly to how chefs view the world in general AND, interestingly enough, how they feel about the people who work for them. The fact is, kitchens are labor intensive operations and a certain degree of “entry level” inexpensive labor is required for financial success.

 

Beyond providing jobs for the individuals who perform these necessary tasks for restaurants and the like, chefs typically donate a significant amount of time and resources to their local community. Food banks, fundraisers, vocational schools and charitable organizations are often supported by well-known chefs who offer their talents on a variety of local community projects.

 

PATRICK: I’m not seeing the connection. How does this relate to sustainability?

 

WILLIAM: Bear with me here…

 

Think about our food culture and how it has shifted. Yes, locally sourced food, healthy living AND community involvement are all tied together in the broader sense for the positive perpetuation of human sustainability.

 

But who benefits most from the community involvement of these superstar chefs? In many places around the world, it is the entry level folks—the local labor pool whose demographic populates the hospitality world in a very big way. These successful chefs know that by supporting the community, in a very holistic way, they are in turn supporting the very same folks they work side-by-side with every day of the week. They know that one of their main labor support systems must be sustained so their success depends on this all coming full circle.

 

But here is the DIRECT tie-in to being Green and sustainability in general from a chef’s world view…

 

Many of these community projects are directly related to being Green, sustainable initiatives, local sourcing and of course the massive culture shift toward the “farm-to-table” mega movement. In our particular craft of special events, the “Farm-to-Party” mentality is rich and touches many, due to the volume of people we serve.

 

PATRICK: Wow! Good stuff. When our investigations unearth rare gems of insight and knowledge about the foodservice industry, it gives me a real appreciation for our craft. This information,  Agent Neal, gives me a deeper glimpse into what I call the sincerity of “a call to serve others” that most chefs possess as a natural part of their DNA.

 

WILLIAM: Looking at things through the lens of an investigator allows us to think through a person’s true motivation for what they do and how they do it. But even if you are not in the hospitality industry, there are many things individuals can do to support local farming and to be a part of the sustainability movement. Here’s a list from FoodTank that demonstrates How We Can Support the Local Food System.

 

PATRICK: For sure! Agent Neal, let’s get back to chefs, food sourcing and Green for a second… Who would you say is a role model for chef-driven, culinary-oriented sustainability?

 

WILLIAM: In Episode 25 we referenced a few folks, such as Barbara Kingslover and Chef Thomas Keller. But hands down, one of the most inspirational chefs who works tirelessly to promote sustainability is Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill. Take a few minutes and watch this poignant and humorous look at the local and global food supply: Chef Dan Barber: How I Fell In Love With A Fish.

 

PATRICK: It is not often I get so enthralled as I did listening to Chef Barber. That presentation is a jewel.

 

WILLIAM: My investigations have uncovered some other great knowledge about the way chefs write menus.

 

PATRICK: I can hardly wait wait and I’m getting hungry already! Tell me what you uncovered, Agent Neal.

 

WILLIAM: Another common thread running through the minds of and influencing the world view of powerhouse chefs is the never-ending search for something unique. What sets one chef’s dish apart from another? Usually it’s either a unique technique OR in our case unique ingredients.

 

PATRICK: So what makes an ingredient unique? Is it something unfamiliar? Is it something with unusual flavor? Is it the pedigree?

 

WILLIAM: It’s all of the above! But let’s take a look at the element that seems to be influencing menus worldwide more than any other: pedigree. The source usually drives all of the positive elements a chef searches for.

 

PATRICK: Let me take a crack at this one. Flavor, freshness, uniqueness and price…is that correct?

 

WILLIAM: Right again, Agent Cuccaro! When chefs write menus incorporating these critical elements into their dishes, quality comes naturally. A perfectly ripe heirloom tomato from a local source, fresh milk from the local dairy lovingly made into hand-pulled mozzarella, aromatic basil from an on-premise chef’s garden, cold-pressed olive oil and aged balsamic…heaven on a plate! This is just a simple example of a dish everyone can relate to.

 

But, as chefs “up the ante” on their menus, all sorts of amazing things happen. Savvy local producers begin to see the names of their businesses and farms on menus as a sign of quality. Commerce is generated and the ripple effect to other local businesses becomes viral…and all because a chef decided to use a particular tomato. So you see, chefs wield some formidable power and deserve the respect they get when searching for ways to be sustainable.

 

PATRICK: Who are some of our local producers who have become “heroes” to chefs here in the South?

 

WILLIAM: Will Harris of White Oak Pastures immediately comes to mind. He was a pioneer in Georgia when it comes to the grass-fed method of feeding livestock. His meat products are highly sought after. A very interesting documentary on his farm and philosophy was done a few years ago and I recommend giving it a watch to learn about his family and his importance to our local chefs: CUD

 

 

PATRICK: Yes, he is a hero for sure. Speaking of grass-fed, check out this website that is a handy link to a consumer seeking grass-fed products, which drills down to the state level, including Georgia: Eat Wild

 

Agent Neal, this has been a terrific investigation. My goal for the next episode is to dive into specific ingredients and see how trends take shape in food. I want to give our readers some inspirational recipes and ideas for entertaining, as well. So, start your wheels turning, okay?

 

WILLIAM: You bet! I am working on a fantastic menu right now for an important industry event in the fall. Chefs Ahmad and Ashley have been tasked with coming up with something highly creative, yet accessible, to be served to some of the Southeast’s best chefs and restaurateurs. I an hardly wait to collaborate and build the framework of amazing style and excellent service around their menu. This is a perfect case study for us all!

 

To be continued…

 


 

How well do you know your local farmers? Do you get to know the farmers when you visit your local farmers market? Are you more likely to order a dish on a menu when the protein and produce are locally sourced? Please share with us your thoughts on this episode in the comments section. Thank you!

 

Join us in TWO WEEKS, on June 23, for the final installment of this 3-part series.

 

NOTE: Our special agents are frequently undercover for in-depth investigations. They will be reporting in every two weeks.

 


 

This week’s 3Rs…

 

What is Revealed?

 

REVEALED: Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood WATCH

 

 

 

 

What is Revered?

 

REVERED: Chefs Collaborative

 

 

 

 

What is Reviled?

 

REVILED: GMOs

 

 

 

 


 

Agent Cuccaro

Special Agent
Patrick Cuccaro
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Special Agent Patrick Cuccaro possesses an analytical mind and keen intellect. As Past Chair of the Georgia Restaurant Association (2012)—representing more than 4,000 restaurants and 100,000 employees—he casts a studied eye towards one of the country’s largest creators of waste—the food industry. Armed with a vision for…[more]

Agent Neal

Special Agent
William Neal
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Agent William Neal is a hardened professional in the culinary industry. Well…maybe not hardened, since his favorite quip is “Never trust a skinny chef!” Agent Neal has held some interesting posts throughout his career. Starting as a chef, he became a…[more]

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Episodes

EPISODE 25: The Chef’s World View – Part I

In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?

 

The Truth is out there…so we’re told.

 


 

Welcome to the first in a 3-part series we’re calling, HEY YOU, WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”with a very specific agenda in mind. Your Special Agents have made it their mission as foodies to help readers learn about the attention paid to food sourcing, the outlook for their long-term global viability and how chefs around the world are becoming some of the most ardent voices for sustainability. Plan on discovering facts that will inspire you and learn about some incredible foods, all the while having fun with your favorite Green Team!

 

WILLIAM: Back in the early 80s, while I was working in Europe as a chef, someone said something that has stuck with me all these years. You may remember in Episode 10: The Uber Tuber I mentioned the mother of the chef I worked with and her amazing garden from which we ate many a great meal. Well, one afternoon we were chatting. I was rolling out some almond dough for an amazing apple tart we had on the menu, telling her about how back in the States I had learned to make a similar dessert called tarte tatin in iron skillets and how it was one of my absolute favorites.

 

Tarte Tatin
 

PATRICK: I love that one, too! Caramelized apples on crispy pastry, a little ice cream on the side and you are reminded that there IS a heaven!

 

WILLIAM: Well, then she said, “So, where did the apples come from?” I simply answered that I didn’t really know, but that, “Just any Granny Smith apple would do.”

 

She looked me straight in the eye for a second, took a deep breath and said, “Chef William, it is criminal to not know where your apples came from! How could you have true pride in the dessert you were making if you did not really know what you were working with! This is a purely criminal culinary act!

 

PATRICK: What happened next? What did you say to her?

 

WILLIAM: I was actually in a mild state of shock. Not only because she was dead serious, but also because as I broke it down in my mind for days, months and now years later…I realized that she was right! Here was a woman who simply could not get her head around NOT knowing that she either grew the apple herself, knew the person who grew it or at least knew where the orchard was that produced it. That was her “quality control” method, her excellence meter, her truest comfort factor.

 

PATRICK: She taught you a good lesson, Agent Neal. So much of what we consume has a pedigree that is absent from our minds even when we take the first bite. As we have investigated in many episodes, if we really KNEW the sources of our food, we would and should view them differently.

 

WILLIAM: This very profound concept of understanding your food is forming the backbone of a global food movement. At the front line are chefs who in every corner of the world are becoming less of a cutter-chopper-cook and more of a sourcing expert. The connection between food source and quality has been prevalent in cultures for as long as mankind has existed, but the modern world lost its path with the invention of agribusiness.

 

PATRICK: Along the same lines, I would say that broader subjects include the effects of culture, climate, economics, conflict, etc., on world food production and supply.

 

WILLIAM: True and yes. I want to investigate this as we produce this 3-part series.

 

PATRICK: For sure! Agent Neal, let’s get back to chefs, food sourcing and Green for a sec…Who would you say is a model for culinary-oriented sustainability?

 

WILLIAM: One of the first names that usually pops up with the general public is Barbara Kingslover who wrote the epic read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where she documented her family’s journey into producing everything they ate, for an entire year! She did a brilliant job of connecting with the average person and family life. On a professional level though, Chef Thomas Keller of the famous “The French Laundry” in Napa Valley would be at the head of the class. His restaurants have served as sustainable templates for operations worldwide.

 

PATRICK: An amazing place! I look forward to getting into this subject deeper and deeper over the next couple of episodes! Keller is a master of sourcing, for sure.

 

WILLIAM: My investigations have uncovered some great sources, some great facts, and of course I hope that they will inspire us all! I might have even discovered some new recipes to share! How about a locally sourced menu for 150 people…sound good?

 

PATRICK: I can’t wait. and I am getting hungry already!

 

To be continued…

 


 

What restaurants to do regularly visit because you’re a fan of their sustainability initiatives?

 

Join us IN TWO WEEKS on June 9 for Part 2 in our 3-part series.

 

NOTE: Our special agents are frequently undercover for in-depth investigations. They will be reporting in every two weeks.

 


 

This week’s 3Rs…

 

What is Revealed?

 

REVEALED: Global Food Production

 

 

 

 

What is Revered?

 

REVERED: Save the Oceans, Feed the World

 

 

 

 

What is Reviled?

 

REVILED: War Colored Shades of Green

 

 

 

 


 

Agent Cuccaro

Special Agent
Patrick Cuccaro
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Special Agent Patrick Cuccaro possesses an analytical mind and keen intellect. As Past Chair of the Georgia Restaurant Association (2012)—representing more than 4,000 restaurants and 100,000 employees—he casts a studied eye towards one of the country’s largest creators of waste—the food industry. Armed with a vision for…[more]

Agent Neal

Special Agent
William Neal
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Agent William Neal is a hardened professional in the culinary industry. Well…maybe not hardened, since his favorite quip is “Never trust a skinny chef!” Agent Neal has held some interesting posts throughout his career. Starting as a chef, he became a…[more]

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