As students head back to school in the coming weeks, Bon Appétit Management Company has found a new way for its chefs to include tasty summer produce in their menus throughout the fall and winter, and a means to further support local Ohio agriculture. For the first time ever, Bon Appétit chefs at Ohio's Case Western Reserve University and Oberlin College will serve ripe summer strawberries and green beans to students in the fall and winter. This is made possible because fresh produce has been harvested all summer long and then flash-frozen in batches specifically for use later in the school year.
The program, a partnership between Bon Appétit and the Center for Innovative Food Technology (www.eisc.org), is known as micro-processing: the small-scale preservation of locally grown foods through freezing. The just-picked berries and green beans are flash-frozen for use in the colder months to come, helping to extend the longevity of the produce in Ohio, and also contribute to a more robust, year-round foodshed.
Micro-processing allows Bon Appétit chefs to use produce that has been preserved at the peak of its freshness, much like home cooks have been doing for centuries with methods like canning, pickling and preserving. The program is part of Bon Appétit's larger Farm to Fork mission, a company-wide commitment to buying from small, owner-operated farms within 150 miles of their cafés.
'For three years, our team has explored how to capture the vibrant flavors and nutrition that only the summer sun can offer,' said Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio. 'We are very excited that our students at Case Western Reserve University and Oberlin College will be the first to enjoy this delicious produce any time of year. Micro-processing allows us to continue our investment in local farmers and their terrific food year-round, and we look forward to bringing this approach to our other clients in the future.'
Johnston Fruit Farm is one of four farms participating in the pilot micro-processing project this year. Owner Martha Mora harvested over 14,000 pounds of green beans this past summer in Swanton, Ohio that will then be frozen in batches for later use by Bon Appétit chefs for their Ohio schools. 'This effort from Bon Appétit is exciting for us, because it could become a model for our customers throughout the region,' said Mora. 'We are thrilled that we can ensure our crop's longevity and count on revenue during a typically slow time of year.'
The flash-freezing method is rapid, allowing the nutrients from the berries and green beans to remain in the food. Chefs will be able to use the produce in their creative dishes, serving menu items they would not otherwise have the chance to prepare during the colder months of the Ohio school year.
'Micro-processing local produce at peak season is a cutting-edge way to expand our Farm to Fork program in our chilly Ohio climate,' says David Apthorpe, Executive Chef at Case Western Reserve University. 'As a local chef, it is exciting to be a part of something that is so supportive of Ohio's agricultural system, and also going to enhance the options available to us chefs in the kitchen. We can't wait to get creative with green beans and berries this fall.'
This year's pilot micro-processing program will handle more than 30,000 pounds of green beans and strawberries, representing a commitment of US$ 50,000 that will support Ohio farmers and regional agriculture.
About Bon Appétit Management Company:
Bon Appétit Management Company (www.bamco.com) is an onsite restaurant company offering full foodservice 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, farmworkers' 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.