So, here we are staring Thanksgiving in the face. We have almost 2 feet of snow on the ground, Yosemite is blanketed in an unseasonably heavy winter storm. We have one ton of turkey broken down into parts for various cooking methods (brining, roasting, braising, simmering), 400 pounds of beef ribeye, 200 pounds of smoked Kurobuta hams, 900 reservations on the books and a stand still on pace increases. We are 120 or so under the actual for last year, the target number is 1200. This is a perfect example of an operational challenge of living and working in the rural areas, the special places that we run our big shows in. The smaller, sustainability driven, vendors that depend so much on our orders this time of year.
We order our turkey from a small turkey ranch that does both free range and free range/organic. The Ahwahnee has used exclusively Diestel Ranch Turkey products on its menus since my first day in this kitchen in 1994, it could have been on the menu for a while prior to my arrival, I could not tell you with any accuracy. At that time, “sustainable” was not the buzz word, it was “organic”, and things organic meant produce back then. Expensive and honestly, pretty poor quality. Now we have used the word “organic” into the netherworld. Calling farmed salmon “organic”??? Luckily the USDA got a hold of that one and snuffed it out.
The word we always want to use is sustainable. This word can stretch as far as our minds can fathom. It encompasses the philosophy of a low-impact livelihood, a low-impact business model, a well thought out plan of action from ground to table, from ocean to oven, from air to mouth. This is the water you drink, the food you eat, the air you breathe, the very existence of “us” depends on it.
As we all try to make it home and find something to be thankful for, I, for one, am very thankful for the support DNC has shown over the years to expand our sustainable offerings on our menus at The Ahwahnee. Thanks also to Chef Henin for sparking the fire that burns in us to continue to strive to find the products locally, to keep with the season’s bounty and to use the smaller vendors that depend on us so that they may be thankful for this holiday. Thank you to all that I have crossed paths with and have inspired me to continue this quest, I just hope that I can spread the word effectively and inspire others.