IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LOVE…
I grew up in Dorchester, England, and every Wednesday I accompanied my Mum to our local outdoor market. We visited the butcher and the fishmonger, the vegetable hawker, and the fruit man. I helped her shop for our family of six. We had a tight budget, but somehow she made it work and cooked up lovely meals of fresh meat and two veg (as we say in England) every night of the week. Because we were shopping at community markets and our food was coming from local fishermen, ranchers, and farmers, we were in essence eating a sustainable diet consisting of seasonal and locally raised meats, fruits, and vegetables. Did we know it? Of course not. It’s just how it was, and how I grew up.
We, as a planet, need to go back to these basics. In this website, my TV work and my new book, I’ll offer ways people can make choices to make a positive impact. Eating sustainably doesn’t necessarily mean buying organic 100% of the time. It doesn’t always mean eating locally raised foods either. It means making the smartest choices on a consistent basis, given the various factors at play—just like Mum did. Think of sustainability as a hand of cards. With every new hand the cards change—just like ingredients change all the time depending on the season, the market where you’re shopping, and the part of the country where you live. Based on your hand, you make the best decisions that are within the realm of reason-ability. You assess the situation. You contemplate your options. You play the hand you’re dealt.
It’s about choosing the best options available to you. It’s about keeping these factors in mind while composing an interesting picture on the plate—one of varied colors, flavors, and textures. Sometimes, that means going for local and organic. Other times it means taking advantage of fresh from the frozen aisle and even using quality canned goods. We’ve never had more options when it comes to cooking dinner. Making smart choices is what it’s all about—smart choices for your family, your friends, and the planet.
When I moved to America in 1995 with Roux fine Dining, it was akin to an awakening.Generally speaking, people didn’t market the way Mum did—or even the way Londoners did with daily visits to the outdoor market at Convent Garden (large cities like New York and San Francisco with their resplendent farmer’s markets were of course the exception). People went to the mega market once a week and loaded up. Shoppers had access to food from throughout the world, like strawberries in November from Chile, and a seemingly endless supply of cod and sea bass.
A few years ago I attended a program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was about our oceans, our disappearing reserve of fish, and about how, as a food service provider who feeds thousands upon thousands every day, it was up to me to make environmentally sensible choices. It was eye-opening that I could make such a huge impact on the state of our oceans and farms and, in effect, our planet. Just by offering wild salmon in season instead of farmed salmon, or by choosing canned tomatoes in the winter instead of ones grown thousands of miles away. I began looking to other areas where I could make a difference from fowl to bovine, imported fruits and vegetables, and even saturated fats. I had an astounding “a-ha!” moment—through the company I was working for, the world’s leading food service organization that feeds millions daily and employs 360,000 people across the globe, I could make a positive impact just by reexamining what I was offering for lunch.
Instead of serving omelets made from factory-farmed eggs, why not use ones from cage-free birds in my ham and gouda frittata? Why not start working more with root vegetables like sunchokes and parsnips during the wintertime? Why not offer lamb sliders instead of burgers, and catfish osso bucco instead of veal? I was and still am in the unique position to do more than talk the talk and can influence sustainability and American agriculture.
As the vice-president of culinary development I create and develop culinary initiatives for countless food service operations. I’ve developed over 3,500 recipes during my 16 years here. In short, I am a good example of how one person can change the lives and eating habits of many. Now, dishes featuring under-rated, underused fish like pollock enlivened by a bracing green olive gremolata and sea trout in lieu of salmon make common appearances on my menus for universities, sporting venues, and corporate headquarters. Walk into many of our Operations, and you’ll see parsnips tossed with gingerbread spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger or perhaps hummus soup made from nutrient-packed chickpeas.
For the last six years, I’ve dedicated myself to changing how I approach cooking and to raising awareness about sustainability and promoting solutions for both land- and sea-based food supplies. In addition to helping support the company to adopt sustainable seafood practices, we also now use cage-free shell eggs in our cooking, reduced in antibiotic’s-chicken and pork, rGBH-free milk, and have adopted using biodegradable disposables and eco-friendly packaging alternatives. The decisions that I have made effect thousands of people including those who farm, fish, and raise the food to those who eat it. When it comes to home cooking, I believe in many of the same sustainability principals.
My goal with is to show you that eating sustainably need not be complicated, expensive, or require you to relocate to southern California, which isn’t a bad idea either as I love it there, san Diego in particular, where farmers markets are bustling year-round. Everyone can choose to eat sustainably. Every day, no matter the time of year or income. I’ll show you how—by knowing your options and being armed with information, everyone can choose to make better decisions for the health of their bodies and the planet.
Change starts with one: one consumer, one chef, one farmer, one educator, one curious thinker. The way we eat and the way we think about food is changing due to fuel prices for oil and grain and diminishing natural resources both here and abroad. It costs more to feed a chicken, house a chicken, keep a chicken warm in the winter, and transport said chicken from one coast to another. So the price we pay for the chicken on our plates is rising too. I’m not just talking about economics here—I’m talking about the price we pay when it comes to our planet and the future of our children, and our children’s children.