Food Authenticity

Tuna Tartare
Tuna Tartare Silver Diner

The focus is on fresh, nutrient-rich ingredients, distribution integrity, and purity in preparation.

Authenticity. That’s the word that kept coming to mind as we polished off this issue. In most instances, the conversation about authenticity involved food—the integrity of the food supply, the healthy attributes of dishes, the purity or simplicity of techniques in preparing food.

Chef Ype Von Hengst alluded to authenticity across multiple levels as he described the many ways that Silver Diner is leading the charge to enable Americans to eat healthier. (Story on page 38.) Almost everyone is talking about sourcing fresh, local ingredients as part of the nearly ubiquitous “eat healthy” movement. But Chef Von Hengst takes the discussion much deeper as he highlights the need for using nutrient-rich ingredients as opposed to ultra-processed ingredients that are stripped of nutritional value.

An excellent rule of thumb gleaned from his insights: The longer the shelf life, the lower the nutritional merit since the longevity of food is often dependent upon preservatives.

To gain a greater understanding of how to achieve authenticity from the get-go, check out the Food Supply story that begins on page 48. And if you don’t quite get why that’s important, consider what Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association had to say: “You’ve really only got one shot at food safety, and if you get tripped up in that, you could destroy your business.” (Doubters need look no further than our fast-casual friends at Chipotle.)

There’s also authenticity in a somewhat esoteric sense when you consider how the character and integrity of food can be defined by cultural heritage or cooking techniques indigenous to a specific place or time. The Worlds of Flavor conference hosted later this month by The Culinary Institute of America will explore this concept, and our story on page 22 shares insights from chefs who will be presenting at that event.

The flip side of authenticity has also become a newsy topic—at least on an international stage. In February, Italian police reported they had seized 9,000 bottles of fake Moët & Chandon Champagne. Instead of the pricier Champagne, the bottles were filled with sparkling wines. Counterfeit foods are also a growing concern, especially when it comes to luxury categories—think caviar, truffles, and gourmet chocolates. NetNames, a London-based company that specializes in brand protection on the Internet, released a report in September that noted “fake food products account for as much as 15 percent of all illegal goods seized in six leading global markets.”

Whether sourcing from a local farm or online, the moral of all these stories is to clarify and embrace authenticity.

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