Co-owner of Mouzon House, Dianne Pedinotti, talks with EthicalFoods.com about how her restaurant has been impacted by climate change and shares what it takes to source ingredients locally and sustainably.
Why source sustainable food from local suppliers?
Because it is healthier all around, we source from local farms that use sustainable practices—the food is not travel weary, is higher in vitamins, uses less fuel to get here, you are not ingesting pesticides and the soil is improved, not depleted.
Has your restaurant been affected by the drought, ocean acidification, or any other changes in climate?
We source our fish with the environment in mind—so if a fish is endangered you won’t find it on our menu. A trend that we have noticed in the availability of crawfish from China vs. Louisiana is that you pay twice as much for domestic crawfish. Locally, we have not been affected by drought, but we’ve not had much arugula available this spring due to cold rain and then excessive heat. Prices are higher for locally sourced ingredients and it is hard to pass that on to the consumer and maintain consistent business.
What challenges have you encountered sourcing from local suppliers of sustainable food?
We live in an area that is rich in small sustainable farms—we spend a lot of time traveling to pick up meat that is grass fed and local, eggs are inconsistent so we use a lot of farms for those. Milk, cheese and yogurt are easily sourced and delivered, as we are right next to the farmers market. Salad greens are weather dependent so we get very creative with our salad offerings. When we are out of something, we are just out.
What’s on your Sustainability Wish List for 2013?
Increased awareness of our need to be environmental stewards through education. We all participate in daily living, driving, consuming, and our choices effect the environment. Do we buy locally or do we purchase from big warehouse stores to save dollars? The dollars we save in the short term will be dollars spent in the millions in the long term (think of the recent hurricane along the east coast). This isn’t someone else’s problem, collectively it is our problem. Anything we can do is better than doing nothing. I would love to see more local produce in schools and education of young children about the importance that their consumer choices have on the environment.
How will climate change affect the restaurant industry in the future?
Well, look at the Midwest—it’s dried up. How do you still employ the same farming techniques there and grow food for the masses? We have to re-think all of this. I remember back when there was a shortage of romaine lettuce due to E-coli and restaurants just stopped selling it on their menus. A customer asked me why we were serving it and I answered that we got it from a farmer that we knew well, 5 miles down the road, and that we were not concerned about E-coli.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Pedinotti Haynes