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Top 100 Independents: Ethical Eats

June 28, 2018
Graffiti Earth

Graffiti Earth

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Graffiti Earth
Graffiti Earth

Tribeca, New York

Established: 2016

Chef/Owner: Jehangir Mehta

How they do it: Sourcing material scraps from the fashion district for napkins, espresso grounds from a coffee bar next door for ice cream flavoring, and imperfect produce and fish from farmers and fishermen are just a few examples of Graffiti Earth’s scrappy efforts highlighting a commitment to the earth. 

Steal it: What products are your neighbors tossing that you could stretch in your kitchen?

Reynard

Reynard

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Reynard
Reynard

Brooklyn, New York

Established: 2012

Owners: Andrew Tarlow and Peter Lawrence

Chef: Christina Lecki

Pastry chef: Rebecca Eichenbaum

How they do it: Working to make Reynard 100 percent sustainable, Chef Christina Lecki has a butcher on staff to achieve zero percent animal waste, makes veggie trimmings and scraps into powders for soups or fermented additions to salads, and even works on a 24-hour cooking schedule to ensure no free, natural energy is lost from the restaurant’s still-hot coals overnight.

Steal it: Watch your water waste and plastic-wrap and parchment paper use. “I try to spend a fair amount of time training people to be more mindful of this sort of avoidable waste,” Lecki says.

The Mar Vista

The Mar Vista

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The Mar Vista
The Mar Vista

Los Angeles

Established: 2017

Owners: D. Brandon Walker, Jill Davie, and Jorge Rivas

Chef: D. Brandon Walker and Jill Davie

Pastry chef: Jill Davie

How they do it: Chefs D. Brandon Walker and Jill Davie’s philosophy on food can be summed up in one dish: The Cranked Bowl, the signature dessert at their restaurant. “We use the ‘fugly’ fruit (over-ripened, misshapen) that no one buys or is left over at the farmers market,” Walker says. The farmers market is located less than half a block from the restaurant, and Walker and Davie pride themselves on their close relationships to farmers. The restaurant then individually quick-freezes the fruit and turns it into a beautiful granita after running it through antique hand cranks.

Steal it: How can you repurpose unwanted produce?

Balzac

Balzac

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Balzac
Balzac

Milwaukee

Established: 2005

Owners: Scott Johnson and Leslie Montemurro

Chef: Ronnie Oldham

How they do it: Beyond the recycled menu coasters, compostable to-go packaging, and biodynamic wine, Balzac’s Family Meal program is what really set the restaurant’s sustainability efforts apart. Starting at 10 p.m. on Sundays, Chef Ronnie Oldham serves free food to anyone who buys a drink. “Every dish the chef creates comes from scraps; ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. Customers can expect several courses of shareable small plates,” says Emily Chirillo, general manager. “It is a great way to marry all of our passions: taking care of people, giving back, being creative in the kitchen, and reducing our footprint.”

Steal it: “Use every part of an ingredient to its fullest extent to decrease waste. We went from composting five gallons of perfectly usable food per week, to using almost all of it in a new way,” Chirillo says.

Urbane Restaurant  & Bar

Urbane Restaurant & Bar

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Urbane Restaurant & Bar
Urbane Restaurant & Bar

Seattle

Established: 2009

Owners: Hyatt

Chef: Brian Pusztai

How they do it: Urbane sources within a 200-mile radius to gather a more intimate knowledge of the ingredients the restaurant uses, works with Cedar Grove Composting to turn its plant and food waste into compost, and constructed its building to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. “We take great pride in working with our local farmers and producers to ensure quality and dependability each and every time,” says Chef Brian Pusztai.

Steal it: Building new or redesigning? Consider a LEED certification.

Kyirisan

Kyirisan

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Amber Frederiksen
Kyirisan

Washington, D.C.

Established: 2016

Chef/Owner: Tim Ma

How they do it: After nine years in the restaurant business, sustainability comes second nature to Tim Ma at Kyirisan. His sourcing relationships have been forged, and, instead, he focuses his energies these days on making his guests feel at home with large communal tables, hand-painted drawings, and dishes from his childhood like congee, a rice porridge.

Steal it: “Don’t take the small things you can do for granted. Recycling, composting, etc. are just a matter of putting things in the right bin these days, nothing more. Have a conversation with your suppliers. They want to help; they just need to know you want that too,” Ma says.

Red Stag Supperclub

Red Stag Supperclub

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Marie Ketring
Red Stag Supperclub

Minneapolis

Established: 2007

Owner: Kim Bartmann

Chef: Joe Holmes

How they do it: Red Stag doesn’t take its sustainability efforts lightly. The restaurant was the first in Minnesota to be LEED certified, has its own organic farm using a permaculture system, subsidizes 70 percent of its employees’ health insurance, and hosts nonprofit fundraisers like for the Land Stewardship Project regularly.

Steal it: “Identify a couple of restaurants that are active in sustainability efforts and just go talk to them. I have learned over the years that, while the larger restaurant community remains a very competitive space, restaurateurs and chefs who are engaging in the sustainability efforts are really happy to share information with one another and help each other,” says Kim Bartman, owner.

Coasterra Modern Mexican

Coasterra Modern Mexican

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Auda & Coudayre Photography
Coasterra Modern Mexican

San Diego

Established: 2015

Owners: David and Lesley Cohn

Chef: Deborah Scott

How they do it: At Coasterra, sustainability is built into the restaurant. Solar panels adorn all outdoor areas, their oil is recycled by New Leaf to make fuel, and their sourcing system relies on local farmers like Connelly Gardens and Murray Family Farms, as well as protein purveyors like  Superior Seafood in Santa Monica and 1855 Beef.

Steal it: “Inspect and expect the best from your purveyors, and they will provide the best they have to offer,” says Deborah Scott, executive chef and partner.

Crave Fishbar

Crave Fishbar

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Ashley Sears
Crave Fishbar

New York City

Established: 2016

Owners: Brian Owens

Chef: Todd Mitgang

Pastry chef: Ansarys Andino

How they do it: Crave Fishbar is just as committed to its food as it is its employees. “We use our restaurants as platforms to not only build awareness about ocean-friendly seafood choices, but also give our employees the tools to be successful in life, being one with their communities, and supporting local farmers and fishermen,” owner Brian Owens says. The restaurant partners with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and New York’s Oyster Project, does volunteer days with staff at the Billion Oyster Project and Harbor School, and often brings in its oyster farmers and fishmongers to lead staff discussions.

Steal it: “Just because something is sustainable, doesn't make it necessarily more expensive,” Owens says. “But it could take you endless hours of research, phone calls, and samples to find that right product.”

Kith + Kin at The InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf

Washington, D.C.

Established: 2017

Owner: InterContinental Hotel Group

Chef: Kwame Onwuachi

Pastry Chef: Michael Brown

How they do it: Kith + Kin is the second concept from former Top Chef contestant Kwame Onwuachi. The executive chef’s own focus on sustainability and waste reduction drives the restaurant’s philosophy. “We try and utilize all ingredients that we fabricate,” he says. “It will either go into the actual dish, sauce, or family meal. We also only source our ingredients from sustainable farms or fisheries because it is so important to know where your food comes from.”

Steal it: Make it a way of life.