Tribeca, New York
Chef/Owner: Jehangir Mehta
How they do it: Sourcing material scraps from the fashion district for napkins, espresso grounds from a coffee bar next door for ice cream flavoring, and imperfect produce and fish from farmers and fishermen are just a few examples of Graffiti Earth’s scrappy efforts highlighting a commitment to the earth.
Steal it: What products are your neighbors tossing that you could stretch in your kitchen?
Brooklyn, New York
Owners: Andrew Tarlow and Peter Lawrence
Chef: Christina Lecki
Pastry chef: Rebecca Eichenbaum
How they do it: Working to make Reynard 100 percent sustainable, Chef Christina Lecki has a butcher on staff to achieve zero percent animal waste, makes veggie trimmings and scraps into powders for soups or fermented additions to salads, and even works on a 24-hour cooking schedule to ensure no free, natural energy is lost from the restaurant’s still-hot coals overnight.
Steal it: Watch your water waste and plastic-wrap and parchment paper use. “I try to spend a fair amount of time training people to be more mindful of this sort of avoidable waste,” Lecki says.
Owners: D. Brandon Walker, Jill Davie, and Jorge Rivas
Chef: D. Brandon Walker and Jill Davie
Pastry chef: Jill Davie
How they do it: Chefs D. Brandon Walker and Jill Davie’s philosophy on food can be summed up in one dish: The Cranked Bowl, the signature dessert at their restaurant. “We use the ‘fugly’ fruit (over-ripened, misshapen) that no one buys or is left over at the farmers market,” Walker says. The farmers market is located less than half a block from the restaurant, and Walker and Davie pride themselves on their close relationships to farmers. The restaurant then individually quick-freezes the fruit and turns it into a beautiful granita after running it through antique hand cranks.
Steal it: How can you repurpose unwanted produce?
Owners: Scott Johnson and Leslie Montemurro
Chef: Ronnie Oldham
How they do it: Beyond the recycled menu coasters, compostable to-go packaging, and biodynamic wine, Balzac’s Family Meal program is what really set the restaurant’s sustainability efforts apart. Starting at 10 p.m. on Sundays, Chef Ronnie Oldham serves free food to anyone who buys a drink. “Every dish the chef creates comes from scraps; ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. Customers can expect several courses of shareable small plates,” says Emily Chirillo, general manager. “It is a great way to marry all of our passions: taking care of people, giving back, being creative in the kitchen, and reducing our footprint.”
Steal it: “Use every part of an ingredient to its fullest extent to decrease waste. We went from composting five gallons of perfectly usable food per week, to using almost all of it in a new way,” Chirillo says.
Chef: Brian Pusztai
How they do it: Urbane sources within a 200-mile radius to gather a more intimate knowledge of the ingredients the restaurant uses, works with Cedar Grove Composting to turn its plant and food waste into compost, and constructed its building to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. “We take great pride in working with our local farmers and producers to ensure quality and dependability each and every time,” says Chef Brian Pusztai.
Steal it: Building new or redesigning? Consider a LEED certification.
Chef/Owner: Tim Ma
How they do it: After nine years in the restaurant business, sustainability comes second nature to Tim Ma at Kyirisan. His sourcing relationships have been forged, and, instead, he focuses his energies these days on making his guests feel at home with large communal tables, hand-painted drawings, and dishes from his childhood like congee, a rice porridge.
Steal it: “Don’t take the small things you can do for granted. Recycling, composting, etc. are just a matter of putting things in the right bin these days, nothing more. Have a conversation with your suppliers. They want to help; they just need to know you want that too,” Ma says.
Owner: Kim Bartmann
Chef: Joe Holmes
How they do it: Red Stag doesn’t take its sustainability efforts lightly. The restaurant was the first in Minnesota to be LEED certified, has its own organic farm using a permaculture system, subsidizes 70 percent of its employees’ health insurance, and hosts nonprofit fundraisers like for the Land Stewardship Project regularly.
Steal it: “Identify a couple of restaurants that are active in sustainability efforts and just go talk to them. I have learned over the years that, while the larger restaurant community remains a very competitive space, restaurateurs and chefs who are engaging in the sustainability efforts are really happy to share information with one another and help each other,” says Kim Bartman, owner.
Owners: David and Lesley Cohn
Chef: Deborah Scott
How they do it: At Coasterra, sustainability is built into the restaurant. Solar panels adorn all outdoor areas, their oil is recycled by New Leaf to make fuel, and their sourcing system relies on local farmers like Connelly Gardens and Murray Family Farms, as well as protein purveyors like Superior Seafood in Santa Monica and 1855 Beef.
Steal it: “Inspect and expect the best from your purveyors, and they will provide the best they have to offer,” says Deborah Scott, executive chef and partner.
New York City
Owners: Brian Owens
Chef: Todd Mitgang
Pastry chef: Ansarys Andino
How they do it: Crave Fishbar is just as committed to its food as it is its employees. “We use our restaurants as platforms to not only build awareness about ocean-friendly seafood choices, but also give our employees the tools to be successful in life, being one with their communities, and supporting local farmers and fishermen,” owner Brian Owens says. The restaurant partners with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and New York’s Oyster Project, does volunteer days with staff at the Billion Oyster Project and Harbor School, and often brings in its oyster farmers and fishmongers to lead staff discussions.
Steal it: “Just because something is sustainable, doesn't make it necessarily more expensive,” Owens says. “But it could take you endless hours of research, phone calls, and samples to find that right product.”
Owner: InterContinental Hotel Group
Chef: Kwame Onwuachi
Pastry Chef: Michael Brown
How they do it: Kith + Kin is the second concept from former Top Chef contestant Kwame Onwuachi. The executive chef’s own focus on sustainability and waste reduction drives the restaurant’s philosophy. “We try and utilize all ingredients that we fabricate,” he says. “It will either go into the actual dish, sauce, or family meal. We also only source our ingredients from sustainable farms or fisheries because it is so important to know where your food comes from.”
Steal it: Make it a way of life.