Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Let's Make Restaurant Kitchens the New Nexus of Sustainability

3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Macroeconomics course on a blogging series about “the economics of sustainability.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.

 Ryn Longmaid

I've never been to culinary school, but nevertheless, I have never been far from the food service industry. I started-out as a dishwasher and worked my way up through the back-of-the-house, ultimately owning my own restaurant.  Although I do not have any formal culinary training, I can tell you that everything about my on-the-job education has been greatly influenced by a professionally trained chef or restaurant manager. From the chef’s knife I still use today, to the manner in which I sharpen it, to the placement of the 6-burner-stove on the cook’s line — everything I know about cooking and running a restaurant can be traced to the influence of a trained food-service professional.

As all roads of my graduate studies seem to lead back to food service, I can’t help but think: with the astounding influence that our young culinary professionals have on industry trends, what if a bit of sustainability were infused into the curricula of these up and coming innovators?

One part hospitality, two parts light industry, restaurants offer a near-perfect assortment of top shelf sustainability issues. From food systems, energy efficiency, water, waste/recycling/composting, labor practices and diversity, fair trade, local economy and GHG emissions, nearly every major sustainability challenge exists in the restaurant industry.  Why not train our chefs, managers and executives to meet these challenges with creativity and innovation rather than having them embark on sustainability initiatives based on the results of prescriptive audit checklists and industry ‘best-practices’?
Restaurants literally hold the collateral for great sustainability vision in their midst: the innovation and influence that young chefs have on the industry is profound. The adaptive-change capability of executives and managers (industry trends change at a dizzying rate) is stunning. And, the intimate access the industry has to its primary stakeholders--its customers--is unparalleled; guests share the wide spectrum of life’s experiences daily in restaurant dining rooms.

At its core, sustainability isn’t about how an enterprise measures-up (which is the road travelled by checking boxes on certification audits), it is about how the enterprise participates with the rest of the world. At its core, sustainability is a systemic assessment of how the enterprise relates to its environment--locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Why not train our innovative chefs (for that matter, all food service professionals) on the basic tenets of sustainability while they are in school so that they can unleash their influential creativity on issues of waste diversion and local food sourcing alongside the next game-changing crème brûlée?

[Image credit: Muy Yum, Flickr]

Ryn Longmaid is an MBA Candidate at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA.  For more information on sustainability in culinary and food service education check out Christopher Koetke, Executive Director of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, IL, and his work with the National Restaurant Association or his blog.  Another great resource is Donnalyn Murphy, Associate Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and her work regarding sustainability education in high school culinary programs.

More stories from Investment & Markets