Seed to Table
Farm to table is fantastic, of course, and something we embrace at The Chef’s Garden and Culinary Vegetable Institute alike. In fact, we delved deeply into this topic at the Roots 2018 culinary conference, and here is what our keynote speaker, Andrew Zimmern, had to say on the subject of the future of food:
The National Restaurant News goes even further, saying that seed to table is trending, as “chefs work directly with farmers to grow vegetables that put flavor first.” And, here you can see how the chef and farmer concept has worked for the Jones family at The Chef’s Garden for decades—and how, in fact, this concept led to the actual founding of the Culinary Vegetable Institute. We’re thrilled to see National Restaurant News, then, spotlighting something that is at the core of our philosophies and practices.
The article also praises the efforts of Row 7 Seed Company, as they “test, taste and market delicious new plant varieties to make an impact in the soil and at the table,” and we wholeheartedly agree. In fact, we partner with them in this quest.
Food Waste Management
Our first thought was that we agree with this trend so much that it would take an entire article to share why. Our second thought was that we have already done exactly that, sharing how the Culinary Vegetable Institute kitchen is a zero waste kitchen. And, for us, food waste management goes far beyond being a trend. For us, it’s an intentional, conscientious strategy to stretch budgets and be good stewards of the environment.
Plus, we also see the zero-waste philosophy as a continuous creative challenge, and we follow the following strategy each and every day:
First, is something in our kitchen recyclable? Then, that’s exactly what we’ll do: creatively recycle.
Next, is something that’s normally considered to be food waste actually edible? If so:
If it’s delicious, then it will be creatively used in dishes for our guests.
If it’s nutritious but not necessarily delicious, then it may be ideal for our pigs.
If it’s not edible, then this becomes excellent composting fodder.
At this point, whatever would be leftover could be considered garbage. But, for us, that consistently equals nothing.
Other ways we embrace the no waste philosophy is through transforming ingredients that might be thrown away in other kitchens into vinegars and pickles, syrups and misos, and more. Then there is our perpetual stock that we’ve simply dubbed Farm Stock.
How exactly our Farm Stock got started may be lost in the mists of time. It may have been chicken stock. It may have been vegetable stock. No matter what it was, though, it was part of our focus on sustainability, on using ingredients in creative ways to eliminate food waste. As the original supply of this stock began to dwindle, we added in food scraps, transforming the stock into something equally as interesting, something new and wonderful.
From time to time, as we taste this stock, we might intentionally add an ingredient, whether it’s garlic or carrots or something else entirely, to give it the flavoring we desire to create sauces and soups, when poaching vegetables, when cooking rice, or however else it might add a unique touch to a dish we’re creating.
On a Sustainability Side Note
We admit to being fascinated by a recent Reuters.com report that shows how carrots are being used by researchers in London who want to strengthen cement while cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions in the construction industry. Experts have been mixing carrot particles in a simple household food blender to create building materials that could be stronger and more environmentally sound.
And, ready for this? By just using a “small amount” of this whirled carrot mixture, you “could increase the strength of concrete by 80 percent.” The use of carrots also:
means that less cement is required
lowers carbon dioxide (CO2) output
According to the International Energy Agency, cement alone is responsible for about seven percent of CO2 emissions, with the cellulose found in carrots perhaps presenting a truly ground-breaking advance in green building. And, this so-called agricultural “waste” is actually an inexpensive source of this environmentally-friendly material, and its addition to cement changes the way water behaviors as the cement hardens because the carrot instinctively “knows” to hold onto water.
You know what’s next? Similar experiments with leftover beet pulp. And, speaking of beets . . .
Congrats to the Beet!
According to another consumer dining trend article in National Restaurant News, the beet will be “everywhere” in 2019, appearing on a “vast cross-section of menus.” They note how, yes, “deep ruby beets make an indelible impression, [while] golden beets are stepping into the spotlight too.”
They fit in well with the plant-forward movement, the article continues, as the meatballs in spaghetti dishes can be replaced with “beet balls.” This marvelous vegetable, they point out, can be “rootsy” and “elegant” at the same time, also “adding their earthy touch in juices and smoothies, able to go savory or mingle with sweet components like banana or vanilla almond milk.”
Consumer Dining Trends from Other Sources
Next, we looked at RestaurantBusinessOnline.com, and they published a guest post that indicates desire for comfort foods with a twist. Interestingly enough, we recently created a blog post about something very similar, noting how our chefs explore flavor profiles and textures alike to create foods that appeal to diners without being the same-old, same-old.
Chef Jamie Simpson explained how that might work, for example, using spinach. The chef team would first look at what other vegetables and ingredients work well with spinach, and then brainstorm “the different ways that we can develop them textually to include both classic dishes—iconic ones that people can readily relate to—as well as ones that introduce diners to less-familiar ways to use the ingredient.”
In other words, we focus on providing comfort foods with a twist.
And, although this certainly isn’t a new trend, FoodAndWine.com gave a nod to plant-based entrées in 2019, quoting a chef as saying: “It’s not a matter of substituting a meat product for a plant-based option, like a burger or chicken. It’s about using fresh plant-based ingredients to create delicious meals that aren’t just alternatives to meat, but complete dishes on their own.”
Obviously, we concur!
And, Eater.com, in their comprehensive look at food trends for 2019, notes multiple other organizations that are reporting on the ever-increasing attention on plant-based foods. These include:
Uber-Eats: This article actually lists plant-based eating as the number one hottest trend in 2019; specific items mentioned in their post include “bee pollen and edible flowers.” If using edible flowers more often intrigues you, The Chef’s Garden recently uploaded a post on the Miracle of Edible Flowers. And, here, you can find out more about the bees we keep at the Culinary Vegetable Institute.
Benchmark: This article notes how the “latest twist” is “custom farming that includes planting specifically for new-menu development.” And, if THAT catches your attention, we invite you to explore how the Culinary Vegetable Institute is a place of pure imagination, a playground for chefs as they develop new and exciting dishes and menus. The Benchmark article also notes how becoming a vegetarian is finally turning mainstream, which means that increasing numbers of menus will “soon devote a larger portion to vegetarians. More main dishes are becoming vegetable-focused, with proteins as the complement, and vegetarian tasting menus are quickly becoming a staple.”
The National Restaurant Association also predicts veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine.
In a prediction post by Delish, we love this quote: “It used to be that veganism conjured an image of Birkenstock-wearing, hand-holding hippies with better-than-thou attitudes. Not anymore. Shunning animal products and by-products is more mainstream than ever.”
Since we’re on a roll with quotes, here’s one in a prediction piece by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants: “This year, 80 percent of chefs plan to feature a vegan or raw dish on their menu, whether that's a savory dish like spaghetti and beet balls or a sweet treat like raw cashew date cheesecake . . . Expect to see more ‘whole beast movement’ but with a vegetable twist, as chefs experiment with ‘whole vegetable’ entrées, like roasted eggplant with eggplant caviar and family-style vegetable ‘charcuterie.’”
Finally, we’ll end our plant-based focus predictions with this one by the New York Times: the “new star in 2019” is predicted to be lettuce, with “little-known varieties” of fresh lettuce appearing on menus.
Okay. So maybe that wasn’t the last spotlight on plant based dining, because we also want to share what FineDiningLovers.com has to say about how 2019 truly is veggie time. “More and more people are opting for veg-free days, whether it’s for Meatless Monday, for health benefits or because people are realizing the impact meat has on the planet. Perhaps it’s because of what Annenberg University called the 25% Tipping Point in one of their recent studies: the idea that the minority of people who choose vegetarian diets is now getting large enough to effect the choices of the majority.”
Year of the Mixed Carrot
Yes, we give a double-thumbs up to the New York Times’ prediction that lettuce will be the star for 2019. We think that’s wonderful—and we’d therefore like to point out how brilliantly lettuce can pair with our own prediction as the vegetable of the year: mixed carrots.
We love how farm-fresh carrots from The Chef’s Garden come in a variety of shapes, from round to elongated, and colors (orange, red, peach, violet, white and yellow) with subtle differences in flavor. We also appreciate how we can use carrots from root to tip, which dovetails wonderfully with our zero waste kitchen philosophy; here is a carrot puree recipe that shows just one way we make that happen.
And, here’s how Chef Jamie partnered with Chef Jessica Biederman at The Bristol inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston using carrots from The Chef’s Garden. As part of their collaboration, they dehydrated the carrots to make flour, then pasta dough out of the flour. Carrot tops were carefully inlayed within the pasta, along with micro tarragon and viola petals. Once cooked, this delightful dish has the appearance of stained glass.
Vegetable-Based Carbs, Ugly Veggies and More
We also expect chefs to continue to swap grain-based carbs for veggie carbs, a trend noted by Nation’s Restaurant News in 2018. They particularly noted cauliflower and zucchini, calling them the “darlings of the dinner table” and “veggie doppelgangers for grainy rice and carbo-loaded pasta.”
And, BBCGoodFood.com agrees with us, noting how more companies are using vegetables to reduce refined sugar, highlighting vegetable-based doughs that allow people to cut down on grain-based carbs and boost veggie intake, “without forgoing life’s indulgences. You can expect to see more hidden vegetable products in 2019.”
That same article shares how they’re also “seeing exciting products made using misshapen fruit and veg that would otherwise go to waste.” One food-based website, they noted, saw a 93% leap in eco-friendly searches, and they expect the trend of “rescued food” to continue to gain momentum throughout 2019 (and, we’d like to suggest, way beyond 2019). In this article, they also discuss “green” drinks that explore sustainability in delicious new ways, using “tasty garbage” (such as used citrus) in their liquid refreshments.
Visiting the Culinary Vegetable Institute
As you can see from this overview of consumer dining trends for 2019, the Culinary Vegetable Institute really is at the cutting-edge of exploring what’s possible. So, whether you have or haven’t visited us before, we hope this encourages you to attend some of our upcoming events!