Bon Appetit held its 16th annual Eat Local Challenge last month, an event the foodservice management company launched in 2005. Participating chefs around the country were required to create a 100% local dish, sourcing everything from within 150 miles.
“Local food producers need America’s support now more than ever,” said a Bon Appetit spokesperson. The pandemic has especially impacted the livelihoods of smaller farmers, ranchers and artisans used to supplying restaurants and foodservice operations.
The team at Butler University in Indianapolis was especially ambitious. Executive Chef Brandon Canfield and his staff put together multiple local dishes for each dining hall, starting with a shakshuka-style egg bake featuring eggs in a spicy pepper and tomato sauce topped with yogurt and cilantro.
Photograph courtesy of Butler University
Butler’s multiple lunch and dinner options included slow-roasted maple-cured pork belly with sweet aji pepper and green tomato marmalade, served with whipped butternut squash, stewed apples and housemade local sauerkraut. Even the Butler Dining food truck offered local chicken wings with housemade sauces.
Butler’s marketing team visited six local suppliers and shot videos and photos that they shared on Instagram. Additionally, they complied the images into slideshows that ran in the cafes. To spread the word, the team also made “I Ate Local” stickers to hand out to students waiting in socially distanced lines and printed up T-shirts with #EatLocal logos.
At Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., the culinary team took a field trip to Lafayette College Farm. On site, Lisa Miskelly, assistant director of food and farm, talked about her plans for transitioning to fall and winter growing. During the visit, the Bon Appetit staff members strategized their end-of-year purchases and began planning for 2021.
Photograph courtesy of Lafayette College
Gordon College in Wehnam, Mass., also found a socially distant way of interacting with local growers. The foodservice team invited Matthew Couzens of Horse Listener’s Orchard to visit, who, in turn, brought fresh-pressed apple cider and recently harvested apples for sampling. Gordon College chefs prepared a meal that not only included locally produced chickens, dairy products and tofu, but also organic flour and cod.
The mandate to source everything from within a 150-mile radius excluded one ingredient: salt. But Gordon College went beyond, even finding local salt from Cape Ann Sea Salt Co.