Eight years before the New Oxford American Dictionary added the word 'locavore' to its pages, Bon Appétit Management Company committed to using local foods on its college, corporate and specialty café menus. In 1999, Bon Appétit launched its Farm to Fork program, a company-wide commitment to buy from small, owner-operated farms located within 150 miles of their cafés.
Eleven years later, the food service company's sixth annual Eat Local Challenge on September 28, 2010 will involve both professional and home chefs. Chefs at Bon Appétit Management Company's 400-plus cafes will prepare a meal using only local ingredients from farms and other suppliers within a 150-mile radius. Facebook fans are invited to participate as well: an iPad loaded with Culinate.com's electronic app of Mark Bittman's iconic cookbook, 'How to Cook Everything,' will be awarded to one randomly selected participant who posts his or her menu that uses only locally sourced ingredients.
The company's chefs already spend tens of millions of dollars annually with local producers, re-inventing the food supply chain one café at a time. By focusing on a single day when diners can eat a meal made 100% of foods (other than salt) from local suppliers, café guests can enjoy meals sourced from their own community while company chefs have the opportunity to engage new farmers and artisans. Despite the size of the company, Bon Appétit's local chefs operate with creative autonomy, establishing close and collaborative relationships with local farmers and artisans and working to build seasonal, farm-fresh menus unique to their region.
'We designed the Eat Local Challenge to push ourselves, to throw down the gauntlet to our chefs and employees, and to ask ourselves to exceed our own standards,' says Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit’s CEO. 'Supporting local farmers and artisans is a part of our culture, and we always work to find new and creative ways to expand on our commitment.'
Ambitious Goal to Grow Local Employee-led 'Farm to Fork' Program
Along with the Eat Local Challenge, another clear challenge has been issued by Mr. Bauccio to the company's chefs: they are striving to source from a total of 1,000 small, owner-operated farms and artisan producers in the company’s Farm to Fork program by 2011. Farm to Fork, Bon Appétit’s commitment to purchasing as much as possible within 150 miles of its kitchens, enables superior flavor, higher nutritional value and overall premium quality in foods served at the company’s restaurants. This is accomplished by using fresh, seasonably available produce and artisanal ingredients from conscientious suppliers – including dairy products, cooking oils, meats, fruits and vegetables.
Local Bon Appétit Chefs Lead the Initiative; Café Staff Flex their Culinary Muscle at Home
The company is also challenging its hourly employees to execute an Eat Local Challenge in their own home kitchens. Café staff who prepare a 100% local meal in the month of September will get the chance to win a paid day off. Says Bauccio, 'We all know how hard it can be to work full-time and cook for your family. We want to encourage a culinary culture that celebrates the flavors of the season, one that all our staff can be proud of, whether in our cafés or in their own kitchens.' Four lucky winners will be selected randomly, and everyone who participates will get a special mention on the company's Facebook page.
Social Media Gets Locally Delicious
By opening the Eat Local Challenge to the public, the company is challenging home cooks to create their own 100% local meal. Participants are asked to post their menu and a photo of the completed dish on the Eat Local Challenge page on Facebook, where they can share their experiences of sourcing, preparing and serving their locavore dishes.
'When pushed to the challenge, professional chefs and at-home cooks alike can discover terrific new dishes and serve exciting, flavorful meals,' says Bauccio. 'When you use farm-fresh tomatoes, sustainably-grown greens, and organic poultry, you see a clear advantage these foods have over their factory-farm counterparts. These are the methods and meals our grandparents once employed and enjoyed.'
And something the grandchildren are rediscovering. Facebook fans have already weighed in on how they currently or will soon source and prep local foods at home:
- 'Greetings from The Garden State… turns out it is indeed with all the nearby peaches, blueberries, corn and outstanding tomatoes and more … all within 6 miles.'
- 'I love this! I will definitely be cooking a totally local menu …'
- 'I am hosting a potluck cookout – only locally produced foods allowed!'
- 'We sometimes get so wrapped up in looking at the distance that we don't see what is right in our neighborhood. Explore, discover, taste the wonders nature has to offer.'
- 'There's nothing like taking a bite of a tomato straight of the vine on a warm summer day. So much to discover and cook with. The possibilities are endless.'
In addition to the iPad grand prize, the first 50 people to complete all the steps in the Eat Local Challenge will also receive the Bittman app, which contains the entire contents of his book, 'How to Cook Everything,' and features over 2,000 recipes.
About Bon Apptit Management Company
Bon Appétit Management Company (www.bamco.com) is an onsite restaurant company offering full food service management to corporations, universities and specialty venues. Bon Appétit is committed to sourcing sustainable, local foods for all cafés throughout the country. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs addressing local purchasing, the overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, cage-free eggs, the connection between food and climate change, and most recently, farm workers' rights. The company has received numerous awards for its work from organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Seafood Choices Alliance, The Humane Society of the United States, and Food Alliance. Based in Palo Alto, CA, Bon Appétit has more than 400 cafés in 30 states, including eBay, the University of Pennsylvania and the Getty Center.