It's the Rainforest Alliance's Follow the Frog week, an awareness campaign with events being held around the country.
One such event will be a sustainable food talk held at this Saturday's Greenmarket in Union Square with a prominent local chefs. "The panel will explore the connections between food, environment and health," said Dan Katz, a founder of the Rainforest Alliance. Katz will be moderating the discussion, with chefs Galen Zamarra of Mas Farmhouse, Marco Moreira of Tocqueville, Masato Shimizu of 15 East, Larissa Raphael of Telepan and Karl Franz Williams of 67 Orange Street.
"All these chefs are really interested in how they can put their food on the continuum of best practices that continues to improve," said Katz. Access to healthy, sustainable food for all will also be a topic of discussion.As the venue might suggest, local food will be a major topic, but also sustainable options for non-local products. Given the our global economy, it's unlikely that New Yorkers will be giving up on coffee, oranges or chocolate any time soon.
Karl Franz Williams, owner of 67 Orange Street on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, is one of the restauranteurs seeking to strike a balance. Williams was raised vegan, and although he now both eats and serves meat and dairy, he still strives to eat organic and local. "When you shop and eat locally, you support the lifeblood of the community," he said.
However, customer expectations don't make a fully local menu possible. "There are some cocktails that are so popular that we have to keep them on the menu all year long," said Williams. He creates a seasonal menu, with items like the Smoking Geisha, a drink featuring summer peaches. "I have to take that off the menu part of the year because I want to use locally grown peaches."
The Rainforest Alliance certification aims to ensure that products that aren't local are sustainably sourced. "It's not just the food, it's the whole supply chain," said Katz. "From how the farmers are treated to what happens after the food is cooked." Katz is also encouraged by thee trend of cities and municipalities pushing restaurants towards composting, like the recent NYC initiative that enlisted 100 restaurants in cutting down on food waste.
Katz says the Rainforest Alliance wants to tell the story of our food, and our connection to it. "The more that we can do to connect food and its stories, the more we can get people to understand a sustainable way of life."