The Sustainable Gastronomy menu is a collaboration between Ted Nordhaus, the founder of the Breakthrough Institute and a leading global thinker on food, energy, and the environment, and Alex Tishman, executive chef for Big City Chefs.
Featured products include apples that don’t brown, fish farmed in novel systems and sustainably raised feedlot meat, wine produced without grapes, precision-grown high-yield rice and, yes, the lowly supermarket tomato. Each has a story to tell, about sustainability and the culinary qualities that high tech, high productivity products offer chefs and diners.
Arctic Apple - Farmed Caviar - Crème Fraîche
The Arctic Apple, which was developed to reduce food waste, doesn’t bruise or brown after it has been cut. But it also offers offers new culinary possibilities - allowing us to serve it thinly sliced and raw because it doesn’t discolor. In this first course, we serve it with crème fraîche and farmed caviar. Farmed caviar is another important food innovation that has replaced endangered wild sturgeon caviar at most tables in the United States.
Bt Corn - Farmed Shrimp - Radish
Herbicide-resistant Bt corn offers outsized environmental benefits that have been widely overlooked. Herbicide resistance allows no-till farming. The engineered Bt trait produces its own pesticide, allowing farmers to cut their normally heavy use of toxic insecticides. Bt corn significantly outperforms conventional varieties across most sustainability metrics, including land and water use, nitrogen pollution, and GHG emissions. This soup is served with closed-system farmed shrimp from Hawaii that eliminates bycatch associated with wild shrimp trawling and pollution associated with conventional shrimp farming.
Tomato - Red Onion - Remoulade
An object of derision among foodies, the supermarket tomato is also a remarkable technological creation. It has been engineered for long shelf life and long-distance travel. The efficiencies that come with its large-scale production in California and Mexico also bring big environmental benefits. Production of California’s high-yielding conventional tomatoes requires less land use and GHG emissions than alternatives. Alas, those benefits come at the expense of flavor. But what if we addressed this flaw creatively? In this dish, we treat the under-ripeness of the supermarket tomato as a feature, not a bug. When fried, the red supermarket tomato is sweeter and juicier than a green tomato, but it still holds up to the fryer.
Calrose Rice - Parmesan - Preserved Lemon
Precision agriculture has enormous potential to raise yields and reduce agricultural inputs and pollution. Nowhere is that potential more evident than with California rice. Using GPS, lasers to level fields, and airplanes to plant seeds, California growers have significantly increased yields in recent decades while substantially reducing water, fertilizer, and pesticide use. California rice also illustrates some of the challenging trade-offs between growing climate, water use, land use, and other inputs. In this dish, we substitute a much higher yielding premium Calrose rice for a traditional arborio rice. The dish is intentionally simple, to highlight the creaminess and texture that this high-tech, short-grained rice is capable of
Chicken of the Sea
Farmed Kampachi - Arugula - Chicken Jus
What makes the proteins we eat sustainable? That depends on where you start the story. Once, humanity sourced virtually all animal protein from bushmeat. A comparatively tiny human population hunted most large fauna into extinction in many parts of the world. Today, the sustainability of meat depends on how efficiently it converts feed to protein: Chicken tops the list, followed by pigs and then cows. Fish, alone among major sources of animal protein, is still in significant part sourced from wild stocks. But for the first time ever, aquaculture production surpassed wild catch globally in 2014. Farmed fish yields a double environmental bonus, reducing pressure on wild fisheries while achieving feed conversion rates that rival that of chicken. In this dish, we pair a high efficiency farmed Kampachi from Hawaii with chicken jus - a reminder that on a planet in which billions still need to eat higher on the food chain, the proteins that we choose to eat and how we produce them is what will have the greatest impact on the environment.
Grass Isn’t Always Greener
Grain-finished Rib Cap - Innate Potato
There’s no getting around it: Beef production is an environmental nightmare. Eating smaller portions less frequently and choosing other meats, like fish, chicken, and pork, can mitigate the impacts of beef consumption. But even so, beef production isn’t going away and is likely to grow substantially in the coming decades. How we produce beef matters. But not in the way many have long assumed. Grass-finished beef reliably requires more land, emits more methane, and requires more water per pound of meat than grain-finished beef. In this final course, we feature aged California grain-finished beef from Bryan Flannery, served with the Innate potato, which has been genetically engineered to resist bruising.