Local Chefs Embrace Sustainability in Many Forms

Interviews with 5 chefs who will be preparing farm-fork tastings at Sustainable Morristown’s Locally Grown Gala on Sunday 9/20

2015-09-03_14-01-23Sustainability is a hot topic with the chefs who will be preparing farm-to-fork tastings at Sustainable Morristown’s 5th annual Locally Grown Gala. Five participating chefs recently shared their thoughts on sustainability as it relates to their cooking and businesses. While all place an emphasis on sourcing local ingredients, sustainability is incorporated in many other ways and includes practices such as the use of reclaimed materials for seating, implementation of a “no waste” policy for food, cooking over an open fire, and the exclusion of endangered species on menus. All will be showcasing their talents at the Gala to be held on Sunday, September 20th from 4 – 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Morristown. Early bird discounts are available until September 9th.

Each chef discussed the importance of using local ingredients whenever possible and cites New Jersey as one of the top places in the country to source from. Mike Carrino, Chef and Partner of Trois Cochons, operators of Pig & Prince Restaurant and Gastro-Lounge, has worked in many other states but says “They don’t call New Jersey the ‘garden state’ for nothing. I love New Jersey. It has everything to offer from a chef’s point of view. We have the best produce, some of the best breeders, and we really have some of the best products in the country.” Similarly, Jeff Powell, Executive Chef at the Hyatt Morristown has worked in California, Hawaii, and Texas. And although “There are certain areas such as Hawaii where the land is fruitful,” in New Jersey “We have a giant network of farms within a 100 mile radius that we can pick and pluck from. We have access to the Atlantic Ocean. I have all these farms, and have local purveyors for chicken and for cheese.” Ben Walmer, Founder of Highlands Dinner Club ties the increasing availability of locally sourced products to the recent trend of New York City chefs launching restaurants in New Jersey, stating “This is very exciting and bodes well for New Jersey.” And Bill Hedge, Executive Chef for Kings Food Markets highlights the demand for freshly picked produce when talking about the company’s exclusive “24 Hour Just Picked Promise.” The program gives shoppers the benefits of a local farm stand by offering locally grown, farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs within 24 hours of being picked.

The chefs also expressed a heightened appreciation for all animals and humans involved in the process. Carrino does his own butchering, which fosters a connection to the product. “I know these pigs, and these lambs, and goats and steer. I’ve seen them in the field. I’ve seen them in the pen. I have a connection with the people who are raising them. There’s a really nice circle of life that goes on.” Powell discusses the Hyatt’s practice of not harvesting fish out of season, and said that they have streamlined their menu so that “We don’t serve any fish that is endangered or even on the verge of being endangered.” And Walmer carefully considers that “agriculture is an original source of innovation and design thinking.” “Whether a farmer is an organic or conventional grower, they are all doing amazing work. They are all systems thinkers and interacting with the environment – and are sensitive to the health and productivity of what they are doing. “

Sustainability practices also extend to facilities and food preparation. Jaull Loram, Founder of The Roselle, which will open in 2016 is following LEED practices for his building and investigating options for recycling and composting. And he will be using reclaimed materials for benches and tables, and even walls and ceilings. “We have been harvesting wood and other materials as we prepare our property for construction. We’ve got a really great stash.” Walmer hosts many events without using electricity or other power sources. “Some of our events are in open areas with no electric available and we cook over an open fire, which I love. It’s so primal and fundamental. It is a privilege to work the way we do and have that opportunity. Many chefs enjoy the whole process – gathering fuel, tending the fire, nurturing it, and cooking. It’s a very intimate process. And it’s how I learned to cook!” And Hedge says that Kings is “always looking into environmental products, which is why we use sustainable packaging, bags and paper products.”

All chefs were conscious of food waste as well. Carino tries to waste nothing. “Nothing goes into the garbage, and we will use bones and scraps for stock.” Loram will also be using the “undesirable” parts of the food for meals and added value products such as jams, jellies, chutneys, and hot sauces. “Just because it doesn’t look pretty doesn’t mean it won’t taste fantastic. There’s a commitment from our perspective to use the total food and make it look good and taste good.” And Powell says that the Hyatt Morristown ships any leftover food waste to pig farms, where “they boil it and cook it down, and it becomes food for the pigs.”

Despite the long hours associated with being a chef, all find time to work with the community, which is central and vital to sustainability. Loram plans to do some hiring from Roselle First, an organization in Roselle that helps prepare people for employment by identifying their interests and skills and helping them with resumes and interview skills. Carrino’s charity work includes donating meals to the Salvation Army for Thanksgiving, and he plans to donate 1000 meals this year. Powell and the Hyatt support many Sustainable Morristown and Grow it Green Morristown initiatives. And Hedge says that Kings makes an impact on hunger relief throughout the area with over 100,000 pounds of food donated to those in need through the Act Against Hunger Initiative.

Each of these chefs, along with other food artisans and producers will be creating tastings using locally sourced ingredients at the Locally Grown Gala. The event also features an open bar with cocktails using farm-fresh herbs, a presentation of the Triple Bottom Line Sustainability Awards, a silent auction, and live music. To see the complete chef interviews, and for tickets and more information on the Gala, visit: http://sustainablemorristown.org/2015/06/2015-locally-grown-dinner-september-20th/.

The Locally Grown Gala is presented by Sustainable Morristown, Kings Food Markets, and Hyatt Morristown, and is sponsored by Highlands Dinner Club.

Sustainable Morristown is a community-wide collaboration working together to ensure the economic, environmental and social well-being of Morristown residents, visitors, and future generations. For more details, see the website at:http://sustainablemorristown.org/.

For further questions, contact Barbara Taylor, barbara@sustainablemorristown.org or (973) 656-3138.

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