“I’ve taken it in steps,” says Giancarla Bodoni, chef and co-owner (with husband Pino) of Escopazzo Organic Italian Restaurant in South Beach. As I noted in my recent review, Escopazzo uses all organic produce and dairy, no farmed fish, and meats that come from animals that have been raised humanely. “I started with the food, and now I have a cleaning company that uses all biodegradable and non-toxic products.” She’s currently sourcing green paper goods -- recycled and chlorine-free -- for everything from take-out containers to toilet paper. And Giancarla isn’t finished yet. “I contacted the Green Restaurant Association to find out the guidelines for being certified. It includes the water you use, the type of light bulbs, and so on. I’m moving in that direction.”
“Any time I buy anything I first try to research it," Ms. Bodoni explains. "I have three kids, and it’s important to teach them these ways. I’m a green person in the house, so it just didn’t make any sense to go against my life philosophy at work. Having a restaurant gives those of us in the industry a huge impact on these issues.”
I asked what her colleagues in the monthly Chef’s Club gatherings have to say about serving healthier foods. “Michael Schwartz (Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink) is the closest to this line of thought. He uses local, natural products whenever possible. But most of them aren’t really thinking about it too much. I think the price point has something to do with this.” How costly is using organic produce? “About one and a half times what I’d pay for regular.” The cleaning and paper products, however, “are not that expensive.”
I asked Giancarla if she’d mind sharing her sources. “Global Organics out of Sarasota provides most of my products. My Golden Fleece distributes the dairy. I’ve been working with Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms for over nine years.” (The secret to Escopazzo’s intensely yellow-colored pastas are the deeply-hued yolks of Gabriele’s and Fleece’s farm fresh eggs). “There’s also a place I want to start working with that’s called Chef’s Garden. They’re not organic, but they use sustainable agriculture. I came across them through Charlie Trotter.”
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I had posed the question to her partly for my own interest, and partly for that of the readers of this blog, but mostly in hope it may offer some guidance and gentle encouragement for some local chef/restaurateurs who may be leaning towards greening. It is something they ought to consider, as there is clearly a growing national trend towards people caring about where their food comes from and how it is produced -- and about the toxic nature of products used around the food. -- Lee Klein