General Manager Kent Buell
Location: Minneapolis; St. Paul
Number of people fed per day: 4,000
Farm to Fork Farmer: Hidden Stream Farm
“To write daily menus that are focused on local Twin Cities ingredients requires a team of culinarians. There is something living and sustaining in what we do. It starts from the food and where the food came from. It requires saying, ‘this is what we have and it’s also happens to be the best, because it’s fresh, local, and raised with care. So let’s find a way to celebrate it.’”
Why I work with food:
I look at feeding people as a way to heal them and make them feel good. It’s always been my passion, even during my school years when I was gearing up for medical school. I started washing dishes in the local ice cream parlor at 13. Throughout high school and my pre-med program in college, I worked in restaurants. I loved cooking for people and making them happy and at some point I realized that I’d been following my true path all along. I went through a classical French culinary program and an apprenticeship at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago. In the early nineties two things happened that made me realize there was more to food than fine dining: I met Alice Waters and woke up to seasonality, and a Mennonite farmer walked through my kitchen door with mud on his boots and the most beautiful produce I’d ever seen and asked me how he could sell it. I’ve been writing daily menus based on local, seasonal produce (some of which I’ve grown myself) ever since. And that’s why I came to Bon Appétit Management Company—so that I can heal on an even larger scale, by serving sustainable food.
What sustainable food means to me:
I met a pork farmer named Lisa Klein of Hidden Stream Farm through Bon Appétit’s Eat Local Challenge. She comes from a farming family and her dad was a founding farmer of a land stewardship organization called Farm Beginnings. One day she confessed to me that she was “in the red.” I asked her how many pigs she’d have to sell each month to put her in the black. She said four. I told her I could go through that in a few days and that I would use the whole hog. Everyone loves pork chops and tenderloins, but it’s much less wasteful to make sausage and use the tougher cuts for braising. We figured out it would cost me about $200 more a month to buy her pork instead of the pork from my regular supplier. I still have to meet my financial goals, so I took the problem to my kitchen staff to figure out if we could save the money somewhere else. Dishwashers know more about what is wasted in a kitchen than anyone. The dishwashers who help us assemble our pizzas figured out that the tiny shreds of cheese that fall off the pizzas while they’re being prepared add up to a huge amount of waste. By controlling this, and other waste, we were able to save more than enough money to buy pork from the Kleins (and in the process cut our daily waste from gallons to ounces). We wrote new recipes for sausage, bacon, ham, and ribs that would help us use the entire pig and make our diners happy. Lisa’s family’s financial situation improved and she’s doing great today. In fact, she now acts as a seller for five different farmers, and has expanded her accounts so that she can bring her and her fellow farmer’s products to a wider market. Her husband even converted his truck to bio diesel which he fuels with our recycled vegetable oil. Sustaining family farmers makes for a sustainable food system.
Why Bon Appétit Management Company is different:
When I first came to Bon Appétit Management Company, the commitment to sustainable sourcing and fresh, local, from-scratch food seemed too good to be true for a large company. The first time I met our CEO Fedele Bauccio, I told him as much. He listened and then he assured me that I should just keep doing what I was doing, that it was real. Not only does it feel great to have that support from the top, but we’re also armed with scientific research for all of our initiatives from the Low Carbon Diet to cage-free eggs. It’s nice to be able to rely on the expertise of scientists in a variety of disciplines to support the work we do every day in the kitchens.