We’re not sure if it was Dan Barber and his book “The Third Plate” that has started the shift in the menu design of higher-end restaurants but there certainly is a movement in place and now a Toronto based company is helping lead the charge.
Last month exciting news was made by Toronto’s Chase Hospitality Group. The restaurant company’s President Steven Salm announced the company’s plan to have their menus comprised of at least 25% plant based items. Known for the quality of their food and high level of service the group whose stable of restaurants includes The Chase, Kasa Moto, and Colette Grand Café is making this move as part of a new strategy to become more environmentally and socially sustainable. A little after a month into the launch we sat down with Steven Salm to ask him how things were going.
Q. Why the move to a 25% plant based menu?
Our values as an organization have always lead us to push ourselves and not settle on ‘good enough’, so for us, this was a challenge and a way to appeal to a broader audience of guests, while making a positive impact on our restaurants’ environmental footprint.
Q. What has been consumer reaction to the idea so far?
Our guests have been thrilled. We now have more healthy options, and menus that appeal to more people, whether that means people who are choosing to eat vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, or who just want to eat delicious food. We’ve gone about it in a way that is very inclusive.
Q. How do the people who work for Chase feel?
Our chefs are excited; they are eager to learn more about the products they’re working with and want to be proud of the their origins. I think there is a lot of excitement around telling the stories of our suppliers, we’re supporting people who are doing incredible work with farming, fishing and agriculture. Our company has always been built on building relationships and celebrating and entrepreneurial spirit. Our teams, both front of house and heart of house, are 100% on board.
Q. What do you anticipate to be the hurdles in executing this?
It has been ingrained in our society to consume, for the sake of consumption. We’ve lost touch with what is a natural diet. Our menu changes came as a result of a reality check, stopping once in a while and asking “is this really necessary”. Not everyone has reached that point, but we think the pendulum is definitely starting to swing back, in favour of natural, real foods, that we can trace back to the farmers.
From an operational standpoint, it can be challenging during the Canadian winters to get ingredients that are both sustainably grown, and transported to us here from their countries of origin. We’re working towards preserving ingredients that we can use year round, to reduce our reliance on imported produce.
Q. What other initiatives is Chase involved in?
We are working to reduce our environmental footprint in all that we do, we’re examining our laundry usage, our take-out containers, the way we recycle and compost, the way we use entire ingredients (to reduce waste). This is an ongoing and evolving initiative. We’re turning everything upside down to see if there is a better way to do it, a way that will ensure we leave this planet more beautiful than the way we found it.
While we keep an eye on Chase’s progress you can check out more about the restaurant group on their website: http://chasehg.com/