Stein & Mary Hinds have managed to achieve
great success incorporating the use of sustainable foods
at The Peerless Restaurant . Why did they choose to
use sustainably produced products and how did they achieve
such success? Chef and co-owner Stu Stein explains.
But first of all let us define the term sustainable;
Sustainable agriculture refers to an agricultural
production and distribution system that:
Achieves the integration of natural biological
cycles and controls.
Protects and renews soil fertility and the natural
Optimizes the management and use of on-farm resources.
Reduces the use of nonrenewable resources and
purchased production inputs.
Provides an adequate and dependable farm income.
Promotes opportunity in family farming and farm
communities, and minimizes adverse impacts on health,
safety, wildlife, water quality and the environment......
The Peerless Restaurant has managed to achieve great
success incorporating the use of sustainable foods.
Why and how did they achieve this, chef and co-owner
Stu Stien explains.
Why did you choose to base your menu around sustainable
This has been an evolving process that has gained importance
though out my career. I first became aware of the sustainable
movement when I was working in the Midwest. Then when
I worked in Kansas it really started to influence my
cooking. The people that I worked for had plenty of
connections within the local farming community, so the
food that people eat at The Peerless Restaurant really
stems from that. Of course Alice Waters of Chez Panisee
has influenced and inspired all of us. She is the God
Mother of the movement - she proved that you operate
a kitchen basing your style on using local seasonal
foods and stay in business.
Does the general public understand the concept
and importance of your drive towards using sustainable
and organically grown products. How do you educate and
get them to see the point?
The wait staff explain our philosophies to the guests
when presenting them with the menu - though in the Pacific
Northwest this food practice is quite widely understood.
Additionally we are some what of a destination restaurant
for the area, so much of our clientele understand, respect
and dine at our restaurant because of our food and our
philosophy. Ashland and the surrounding areas attracts
a good amount of tourists - this segment of our business
can be a little more of a challenge. This where our
wait staff help the cause tremendously. They are well
versed in the concept of our food and can skillfully
How do you promote the use of sustainable foods
on your menu?
We blend the names of producers and farmers on the
menus. Most importantly the wait staff are my mouth
piece talking to our guests and explain what is being
used and where it came from. The tasting menu is another
good tool as it is not a written menu and each course
is explained as it is put down.
Do you spend much time exploring what is available?
purveyors been able to provide documentation to prove
that their products are what they say they are (sustainable
or organically produced)?
A lot of time has been spent looking for the right
people to buy from - and we are still working on it.
It takes a good couple of years to set up a network
of suppliers. The organic farmers that I buy from are
members of organic associations. I do visit many of
the farms that I buy from - more for the reason that
I enjoy seeing their farms than checking up on them.
Many of the meat and game people that I buy from are
from a little further a field so I ask for documentation
What is more important to you - to use organic
products or locally produced/harvested? Local is
paramount. I would much rather support someone who is
local. Many purveyors find it difficult to be completely
organic. For them it is just as much work to find organic
feed and such like as it is for us to find good people
to buy from. This idea is also directed towards beverages.
We feature wines by the glass from some of the local
boutique wineries who produce only a couple of hundred
cases of wine a year.
With regards to our coffee it is not organic but it
is shade grown. Here is where we have a price point
issue. Our guests are quite comfortable with eating
a smaller piece of meat because it has been raised with
out the use of growth stimulants and other drugs. They
understand that that type of product is expensive. But
understandable when it comes to a simple product like
coffee - they want a decent size cup.
What do you do out side of your restaurant to promote
the sustainable movement?
I give demonstrations at our local farmers market
and cooking schools. Additionally we work with the Chef's
Collaborative and other organizations to help spread
Can you offer a word of advice to a chef who wants
to set up their own restaurant basing their menu around
First, talk to purveyors - developed relationships
with the people who are growing, farming, raising, etc....
the actual product. These are the people you will be
driving your menu and cuisine.
Second, think outside of the box and be open to the
moment. A particular group of products may be at its
best right now - maybe you never thought about that
particular combination - but let the pure flavors of
the products speak for themselves. In this type of cuisine,
it is not about "how tall can I make the plate" but
"what tastes the best" and "what compliments each other
Third, be prepared to be frustrated. You will not always
find the purveyors that think like you do. You may not
always be able to get what you want. Be patient but
be true to your convictions. (Stu's
The Peerless Restaurant - 243 Fourth Street Ashland,
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