Ça Va, a 95% net-zero waste eatery, focuses on seasonal, local ingredients, and offers diners a chance to stick to their values as they step out for a bite.
Restaurants across the country are going green and embracing sustainability in increasing numbers. One of the latest is Ça Va, located in the InterContinental New York Times Square Hotel.
It’s hard to believe this bustling brasserie in the heart of the theater district in Times Square is able to divert 95% of its waste from landfills. That’s an amazing accomplishment, even for the most avid composter and recycler. Those who doubt this establishment’s green pedigree need only refer to the Green Restaurant Association, which certified Ça Va, and all other InterContinental restaurants, through its Dine Green Program.
The InterContinental hotel chain recently moved to certify all of its hotel restaurants in the United States and Canada through the Dine Green program. “It gives diners and travelers the assurance that what the business is saying is what they are doing. When diners go to DineGreen.com, they can see every single step each restaurant has made to earn the Certified Green Restaurant® title. Diners can see down to the second decimal point the percentage of food that is organic, the percentage of lights that are LED, what they are recycling, etc.,” explained Michael Oshman, president of the Green Restaurant Association.
Chef Patrick Malone couldn’t be prouder of Ça Va’s environmentally-sound approach to fine dining, and recently spoke with Ethical Foods about everything from roof top honey to his mom’s beloved chicken cordon bleu.
Being in the heart of a massive metropolitan area, where farmable land is scarce, how does Ça Va keep its commitment to providing fresh, locally-sourced foods?
Though Ça Va is located on the small island of Manhattan, New York City’s surrounding areas boast some of the best farms around. Many items on our menu are sourced directly from these farms; from our Hudson Valley Cheeses, to Catsmo Smoked Salmon, to mushrooms and other produce.
Ça Va’s home, the InterContinental Hotel, also harvests its own honey. How do you integrate this delicious, hyper-local product into your menu, and where exactly do the bees forage?
Since the bees arrived back in 2010, we have tried to integrate the honey into our menu as much as possible. One of the most memorable initiatives that involved the bees was our September Taste of Ça Va (our prix-fixe menu), dedicated to the celebration of National Honey Month, where honey was highlighted in every option of the prix-fixe menu. We also created a Taste of Ça Va menu that was not focused on honey, but rather on all the ingredients (ie; tomatoes, avocado, berries, and so much more) that we would also lose if we lost bees. We have also previously partnered with Burt’s Bees to help raise awareness of the plight of bee colonies.
Having apiaries on site has really been an educating endeavor. By working and watching Chef Ruben, the hotel’s Executive Chef and Beekeeper, I have developed a great appreciation for all that bees do, especially related to the culinary world. Even though their home is on a roof in Manhattan where greenery is sparse, the bees have produced about 300lbs of honey in 3 years, all by foraging along the parks down by the river and up into Central Park.
What are some of your favorite dishes and ingredients at the moment?
One of the great things about our menu is that it is constantly evolving, keeping with the seasons and all the great produce each has to offer. Every season we challenge ourselves to offer a new Taste of Ça Va, specifically adapting to the season and the ingredients it produces. Right now my favorite dishes feature items like squash (which diners can sample in our pumpkin lasagna). We also created a great Thanksgiving dish that consisted of slow braised pork shank, honey crisp apples, chestnut puree and charred radicchio.
Ça Va Brasserie is recognized as a Near-Zero Waste Restaurant, and currently diverts 95% of its waste from landfills through recycling and composting. Do you have any aspirations to reach 100%, or do you even feel this is even possible given the nature of the restaurant industry?
I am very proud of what the restaurant has achieved thus far, and though I do not know if 100% is possible, it doesn’t stop me and my team from trying. We are always on the lookout for new partners that help further this mission. For example, we have recently gotten involved with a great program called ReCork, which takes our used corks and turns them into everyday items.
Of the thousands of restaurants in New York City, Ça Va is currently one of less than 70 that have received their Green Dining Certification. Do you feel more restaurant owners should follow Ça Va’s lead?
Being a part of this small group of restaurants is something I am very proud of, as I feel we are paving the way for others. The InterContinental Hotels and Resorts brand has really raised the bar on what is expected, as all of the corporate-managed restaurants in the U.S. and Canada have become Certified Green Restaurants. Meaning all of them meet the environmental standards of the Green Restaurant Association, which is no small feat.
As a Chef, I think it is even more important for us to take care of our environment, as it produces all the things I need to do my job. I feel that as more restaurant owners see how important sustainability efforts are to their clients, as well as the culinary industry, more will get on board.
The holidays are just around the corner. What foods are you most looking forward to?
For me, the holidays mean work work work, but I am very excited about the upcoming duck dish we are featuring on Christmas Eve and Day. It will be a locally sourced Long Island Duck accompanied with sweet & sour cabbage and pumpernickel spätzle.
You also spent time in the military and served both at home and in Germany. How did this experience impact your decision to become a chef?
Being a part of the military exposed me to many different cultures and foods, which I have carried with me in my culinary journey. Though I loved to cook from a young age, I would be lying if I said that experience did not inspire me to get back in the kitchen.
You have said one of your favorite dishes is your mother’s chicken cordon bleu. Have you developed any ways to make this particular dish in a more environmentally sustainable manner?
Because this dish means so much to me I have vowed never to change it. As the saying goes: don’t ruin a good thing.