Think of the & # 39; Portlandia & # 39; sketch in which Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein ask the most patient server on earth for the origin of Colin the chicken? (Was he raised locally, organic, happy?) Now there is a comprehensive guide for diners who want to check these boxes long before they go to the table.
"Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery," published by Blackwell & Ruth from New Zealand, is an ambitious project: four simultaneous guides (covering Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the world), calling for help from 57 top writers and restaurant critics from more than 45 countries. The experts mentioned included their recommendations on places to dine that – together with enduring the taste test – collect local and sustainable ingredients, view the environmental impact of their business, treat employees fairly and ethically, and participate in social activities in their communities. .
The American edition contains an introduction – who else? – the grandmother of the sustainable food movement, Alice Waters. The New York-based associate editor Gabriella Gershenson collected 14 prominent food writers covering all 50 states for the project. Armed with a mission statement and a self-report study, each employee was given the task of finding restaurants and food experiences that embody the ethos of the good food guide with care. The survey informed the assessment process for checking the practices of each restaurant and the suitability to be included in the guide. Each entry contains a nod to typical dishes, and many contain capsule reviews from third parties.
Sustainable restaurant chefs – think of Waters & # 39; Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York – are in the mix, along with lesser-known restaurants outside the big markets. We see you, Little Star Diner in Montana, with your closed system of restaurant compost back to your farm. We see you, Pirogue Grille in Bismarck, N.D., with your homemade game sausage and home-made chokecherries. And we see you, Garage Bar in Louisville, paying attention to local non-profit organizations on the menu to raise awareness and raise money while dinners eat on blessed wood-fired pizza's.
I interviewed co-publisher Ruth Hobday for the background story behind the book. To edit edited fragments from our e-mail exchange:
Why publish a guide like "Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery"?
A few years ago we were asked to make a book for a local charity organization for food security in New Zealand. We asked the most celebrated chefs and cooks of New Zealand to have us film to make a meal they would make for someone they love. "The Great New Zealand Cookbook" became a bestseller (more than 100,000 copies sold, which is huge for New Zealand). Not only did it raise a significant amount for charity, it introduced us to about 80 chefs and restaurants across the country and exposed us to some of the most inspiring people and companies we have ever encountered. What inspired us the most were the countless examples of unseen care they showed, whether it was the passionate way they spoke about their suppliers and the source of their products, the way they treated their staff or the things they their community did. We wanted to make a project about these heroes and sheroes and help people find them.
Who is your audience for this book?
One of the guiding principles of the project is that this is first and foremost a guide to great food – that must be a given – so the primary audience is anyone who is interested in good food. But we hope and suspect a secondary and growing public that is focused on the ethics of food, provenance and community, especially among 18-35 year-olds. Diners become more aware of not only where their food comes from, but also the way it was raised, and the environment in which it grew up.
How did the team check the accuracy of self-monitoring, a process that founding editor Jill Dupleix describes as 80 percent due diligence and 20 percent of trust?
In addition to creating an individual profile from the surveys, each editor was asked to provide a "what we say" comment on each restaurant, and they were all aware of the restaurants in their local food scenes. In most cases they personally knew the owners or chefs. We then conducted a follow-up with online background checks.
Was the # MeToo movement a factor in the screening of these restaurants?
There were certainly a few #MeToo (and other) moments! There were some victims that we had to make the decision to literally drop while we were pressing, and of course it is something that both we and our editors constantly assess and check.
What about Pizzaiolo? I understand that Charlie Hallowell, who is accused of sexually harassing more than 30 employees, has left the daily activities of this restaurant in Oakland, California, but is still the owner. That is not in the guide.
Yes, that was an interesting one. We learned from it during the final stages, but after further research eventually resolved that because he was no longer involved in running the business, and he was not mentioned – the chef is – that we, in all good conscience, take them on. Every matter that arose, we have been considered on merit.
Can you give an example of feedback on the guide from the industry side?
A restaurant owner, the owner of Fresh Sourdough Express in Alaska, cried when we contacted her – we were the first people to publicly recognize what she's been trying to do for more than 20 years.
It is inevitable that restaurants are close by: in Northern California both Camino and the barn, included in the guide, are closed in December. How do you keep the list up to date?
We intend to publish updated editions every year. Online updates can be made immediately, via the TL & CC website, where we include some of the truly heart-warming stories that are included in the answers to the survey that are not in the books.
How do you measure success?
We hope that, by applauding and sharing the efforts of these generous, caring and hard-working restaurateurs, we can build a caring, like-minded community. Ultimately, success means that we can support the community, so that we all feel well when we go out to eat: restaurants can feel appreciated for the effort they and their suppliers make, and guests can feel good about where they eat their dollars. spend, like and experience great food and service.
Are there plans for other guides in this series?
We would like to publish country guides in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Croatia and regional guides such as Asia, Central and South America.
We are about to begin production in 2019 of a 24-part web television series focused on stories, food and inspiration from Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery restaurants, and a recipe book is planned for publication in 2020.
And we continued our goal of supporting food security organizations: we donate 5 percent of our revenue to Alice Water's edible school grounds project in the United States, the Sustainable Restaurant Association in the UK, the National Indigenous Culinary Institute in Australia and Action Against the hunger.
Henry is the author of "Farmsteads of the California Coast" and the co-author of "The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook."