Fast-casual restaurant du jour, Chipotle, made headlines for using organic and local ingredients in all of its 1,100 U.S. locations. This year alone, more than 10 million pounds of produce will come from within a 350-mile radius of Chipotle locations. McDonald's announced earlier this year that the behemoth fast-food restaurant would buy one million cage-free eggs each month for its U.S. locations. But even if the chain could commit to larger quantities, there simply aren't enough eggs to meet demand. And that's just the chains. Hundreds--if not thousands--of restaurants and caterers are now embracing the locavore menu. But can they all succeed?
Fresheast sits at the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, CA at a busy Santa Monica Boulevard intersection. At a glance, it looks like any other quick lunch spot: counter ordering with tired but smiling cashiers, self-serve beverage coolers, loud music, tables and benches just comfortable enough so that you eat quickly and make way for the next round of hungry patrons. But what you may overlook in this familiar setting is that the ingredients in the Pan Asian cuisine are mostly organic. All meats and seafood are sourced from certified natural purveyors like their organic Shetland Atlantic Salmon, and produce is sourced locally and organic whenever possible. Discounts for bikers and hybrid drivers complement the sustainable/compostable containers and décor. Celebrating its one year anniversary, plans are in the works to expand says representative Juliana Pesavento, "We wanted to see if it could work, first."
Meg Taylor, founder/chef of Los Angeles' Large Marge Sustainables runs a catering business built on fresh, local and organic ingredients; "It's an embarrassment not to source fresh ingredients locally here." So committed, she's even exploring making flours out of regional legumes and grains rather than importing wheat.
"I have no idea how you get around the coffee thing here, though," says Taylor. But even that's not out of the question as rumors of Santa Monica coffee berries could provide a possibility for the small operation.
What seems to be the biggest challenge for food service outfits--big or small--is not sourcing food locally year-round even if that means malleable menus, but the challenge is addressing consumers food habits and expectations. "Sometimes we have to fight for these decisions because food memories are so intense for people," says Taylor. "But the seasons help us, especially in SoCal, where seasons present themselves more in changes in produce than they do in leaves falling."
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Image: La Citta Vita