By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 04 October, 2012
Bon Appetit’s Eat Local (Fish) Challenge, a one-day event held at all 500 of its U.S. locations last week, was designed to educate guests about eating seafood.
“Americans don’t eat a lot of fish: It is less than 10 percent of our total protein intake annually. What I really tried to share with our chefs is what a special opportunity they have in getting their guests interested in eating more fish,” said Helene York, director of purchasing strategy for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Bon Appetit Management Co.
While Bon Appetit has been running an Eat Local Challenge to encourage guests to eat local produce and meat since September 2005, this year the one-day event on 25 September was extended to specifically target local fish. As part of the event, chefs could use only seafood caught or farmed within 500 miles in one or more sustainable fish meals that day. Restaurant representatives manned tables set up at each restaurant, telling guests why the company uses local, sustainable fish.
Bon Appetit purchased more than 25,000 pounds of sustainable seafood for the event. However, the restaurant chain purchases a vast amount of farmed, freshwater and saltwater fish on a regular basis.
Bon Appetit has partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program since 2002, and launched its Fish to Fork preferred purchasing program in 2011, as a companion to its Farm to Fork sustainable purchasing program. Fish to Fork requires chefs at each restaurant to purchase fish that meet Seafood Watch requirements.
However, since Seafood Watch does not rate some small, artisanal fisheries, Bon Appetit purchases from those companies on a limited basis if they are meeting certain benchmarks. In order to purchase more volume from the small fisheries, they have to become part of Monterrey Bay’s program, according to York. “We want to support improvement and better data assessment, if it is warranted,” York said.
Bon Appetit’s chefs have been able to source seafood from “unexpected places,” she says. For example, Edward T. Farrow, Bon Appétit executive chef at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, sources sustainably farmed tilapia from the Desert Springs tilapia farm, 128 miles away from Phoenix.