Ethics and Fine Dining – Chef Christine Keff talks Organic 3

How long did it take from saying “I’m doing this” to telling the crew “This is what we’re going to do”?It took me a couple of months to get to the point where I knew we were going to do it. Then I broached it with the crew and I said “Let’s do this within six months”.

Was there any resistance to this idea? Yup, there was.

From inside or outside the restaurant? In house, not from outside.

It’s harder. Organics, especially in produce, are geared to the grocery stores. Most organic growing and buying is geared for what sells in the grocery stores.

It’s different for restaurants when you need something all year round. Like shallots for example, they don’t appear in the organic section in the grocery store, so it’s very hard to find a consistent supply of them.

But we found them and have them. It was difficult up front, but in the end it means that any restaurant who wants organic shallots over the course of the year can buy them because we’re buying them. Our supplier has learned where to get them and has started stocking them. That’s how it happens.

What were some of the problems that you anticipated in going to an all organic menu? We anticipated price increases and we did see a little bit of that. We anticipated higher food costs, and initially we encountered one, but we managed to get that back down to where it was.

We had a small increase in price, maybe a dollar per plate. But we were still below many of the other fine dining restaurants. It didn’t price us beyond the reach of the customer at all.

Percentage-wise, can you say how much going organic has affected your food costs? It took a two point jump when we first started it. Two percent – which is significant. It was already low by industry standards, so it didn’t hurt us that much. Then we worked on getting it back down, and now it’s back down. Within four months our new chef, Angie Roberts, got it down.