Sunday, April 3, 2016

Restaurant foraging

Last night I served a couple who regularly forages for a highly starred Chicago restaurant. They told me the story (because they were buzzed) about how chef said, "I need ## day lilies by tomorrow." So they went down the street to a bank and clipped all of their day lilies, and continued doing this daily until the chef took them off the menu weeks later.

When I first started foraging for my restaurant over seven years ago I read a story about a major Houston chef who would walk down the street to an abandoned building lot and gather dandelion downtown Houston.

Later I read of a forager for a highly starred restaurant in Central California who would glean the corners of vineyards.

This is not about me so I won't go into what I do to forage more responsibly, but this is about the disconnect between chefs and their ingredients.

First, dude - you are serving stolen food from private property.

Second, dude - you're serving food grown in highly polluted areas.

And guess what? Even though all three are chefs known across this country (and beyond), they clearly don't care enough to ask. I bet if the chefs asked their foragers where they gathered the ingredients the chef would stop it. Why don't they? Maybe the foragers would respond that its a secret that maintains their livelihood. So you don't trust the chef? But it's unethical and dangerous.

I've long said (and practiced) that if you're not willing to put on your menu the location where you found the ingredient, then don't serve it. Because if you're not, then you're not confident that your customer will trust your food sources.

Cut it out chefs!


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