Your Chef and Climate Change: Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern

As Ohio’s first certified green restaurant, The Greenhouse Tavern maintains two core principles—to use local, organic and sustainably produced ingredients and to operate under environmentally conscious guidelines.  Since the opening of The Greenhouse Tavern, owner and chef  Jonathon Sawyer has opened up several other enterprises—Noodlecat, Brick & Mortar Pop-ups, Tavern Vinegar Co., and Sawyer’s Street Frites—under these very same principles.

Why source sustainable ingredients from local suppliers?

We truly believe that the proximity of the farm and soil to a restaurant directly correlates to the quality of its food. For instance, we constantly strive to source locally produced and non-processed ingredients at Sawyer’s Street Frites in Cleveland Browns Stadium. Even the Tavern Vinegar Company recycles by utilizing otherwise wasted beer & wine to make a great tasting product. The bottom line is that if you start with a better ingredient you make better food.  It simply makes our jobs easier.

Has your restaurant been affected by the drought, ocean acidification, or any other changes in climate?

Buying locally means we really face the same hardships that the farmers do.  If the fields are dry then that affects the amount and the quality of our product.  If there is a storm or the lake gets too cold, boats don’t go out and fish. It forces us to work with the landscape of the Cuyahoga Valley and stay connected to the land around us.

What challenges have you encountered in trying to find local suppliers of sustainably cultivated food?

We strive to get as much locally as possible and cook with the seasons. There are some things that are impossible for our farmers to keep up with for our volume of business and other things that just won’t grow in our climate.  But we make the best of it and try to find a quality product that was sustainably or organically produced elsewhere, or we just don’t use it.  Peach season is short in Ohio, but when they’re here, they’re the best peaches I’ve ever tasted. You’ll never find New Jersey peaches on our menu, and you’re sure not going to find them in January.

What’s on your Sustainability Wish List?

We’re always looking to replace or modify our pantries to be more local.

The true challenge of being in the Midwest and partially landlocked is figuring out the proper seafood channels.  The perch, white bass and black drum are all abundant in Lake Erie and we continue to utilize this source. Walleye is being over-fished so we no longer serve it at our restaurants.

How do you think climate change will affect agriculture and the restaurant industry in the future?

I’m worried about how it will affect smaller farms that don’t have the resources or government insurance to cover price hikes in the market.

Photo credit: The Greenhouse Tavern

Learn more

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The Slow Food Guide to New York City: Restaurants, Markets, Bars

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