If you were to stop yourself dead in your tracks and ask the first person that comes next to you, “What does Food Sustainability mean?” I would guaranty you with almost 90% certainty that the very next person that you approached with the same question would not have the same answer. Many people like the idea of sustainable food, however, few will agree on what it is exactly. There are those who do know what it is and how to approach it. With this article we will talk about sustainable foods, what it is, what it is not, and How to easily find it affordably. We will also talk with a local Chef, Executive Chef Marc Bernard of Big Bowl Restaurants, who has found a way to bring it to the masses and still make deliciously beautiful food and then give you an example of what you can expect when you eat at Big Bowl Restaurants, which brings Chinese and Thai Fusion to the table.
Sustainability, by definition encompasses a whole gambit of things, in my opinion, are vitally important, but for the sake of space; we will concentrate on one aspect of it, “Food Sustainability” or its ecological aspect. According to the Green Restaurant Association,an organization formed in 1990 to help everyone become more environmentally responsible; Sustainability-is the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological processes, functions, biodiversity and productivity into the future.The Green Restaurant Association has implemented a certification program, of which at this point is not a Michelin Star rating, but may soon be its equivalent. Sustainable Food has become more important through the years in light of chemically-altered food products and its effects on the humans and animals, giving way to the concerns of millions of restaurant customers searching for a healthier but affordable option to cooking their own meals all of the time.
The other day I spoke with Executive Chef Marc Bernard of Big Bowl Restaurants is no stranger to hard work. In early 2000, Bernard became the executive chef at Foodlife, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises concept featuring more than a dozen dining options. When Asian food expert and author Bruce Cost created Wow Bao with LEYE, he enlisted Bernard to handle the daily operations which led to partner and executive chef as the Asian steam bun concept expanded to three locations.
“The principals that drive Big Bowl – organic, sustainable, local, natural and eco-friendly – are all things that I am passionate about,” Bernard said. “This is a very exciting time.”
and he gave me some wonderful reasons why his Chinese and Thai Fusion Cuisine differ than most other restaurant chains in business today. One major point that he emphasized is that their food comes from local farms specifically Heritage Prairie Farmjust West of Chicago, and that every employee in the restaurant gets hands on experience of what it takes to bring their product to service. Their use of organic chicken, vegetables, beef, and other products allows the fresh flavors shine in the final dishes.
Big Bowl Farmer’s Market Chicken Stir Fry
This simple and elegant stir fry puts all the emphasis on the fresh
ingredients from your local market. We are using asparagus here, but you
can swap out any number of fresh vegetables that are at peak season.
- 8 ounces boneless chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil plus a few drops
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 cup peanut oil
- 3 small fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon Chinese salted black beans
- 2 teaspoons julienned Fresno peppers
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
- ½ pound fresh vegetables, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed into 2 tablespoons water
- Mix the chicken with the cornstarch and sesame oil, and set aside.
- Combine the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, and chicken stock; set
- Heat 1 cup of oil in a wok to hot and add the chicken, Cook, stirring, just
- until the chicken turns color. Remove to drain; reserve the oil.
- Heat a wok over high heat. When hot, add 3 tablespoons of the reserved
- oil. Add the mushroom slices and cook, stirring, until browned slightly and
- soft. Add the black beans, chili pepper, ginger and garlic, and cook,
- stirring. Add the asparagus and toss until well coated in the seasonings.
- Add the oyster sauce mix and bring to a boil. Re-add the chicken and
- cook, tossing, until heated through. When the sauce boils, re-stir the
- cornstarch mixture and add. Cook over high heat until the sauce thickens
- slightly and clears.
- Remove to a serving bowl and garnish with a few drops of sesame oil.
- Serve over or with jasmine rice.
Note:Serves 2 with rice as a complete meal, or 3 to 4 as part of a larger meal.