Last week we had our company holiday party at a local restaurant in Boston’s historic, and still surprisingly Italian, North End. The restaurant, Taranta (www.tarantarist.com), led by Chef Jose Duarte, astonished us with its innovative pursuits in the restaurant industry. Not just innovative for its unusual blend of cuisines - Peruvian and Southern Italian - for several years now Chef Duarte has been researching sustainability and carbon reduction as a way of lowering costs. He has been offsetting an average of 80 metric tons per year, which certifies Taranta as one of the few Green Restaurants in the world. He has received multiple awards for his sustainable, eco-friendly restaurant.
He produces little to no waste – composting just about everything and refusing to accept items in plastic packaging. He cleans tables, pots and pans with ionized water, saving his customers and the environment from the introduction of dangerous (and seriously bad tasting) chemicals. Some of his latest innovative endeavors involve marketing his company through the use of QR (quick reference) codes, which you may have been seeing all over the place, in often random spots (e.g. street signs, park benches, car windows). Duarte has placed them on t-shirts, menus, and even plates (silk-screening with squid ink paint of course).
We participated in Taranta’s cooking challenge, which had our group divide into three teams and go running around the North End. We hopped from bottega to bottega, picking up the ingredients for our dishes, which would ultimately comprise our meal. This in itself was a great experience as we picked up sustainably grown tomatoes, fresh cheese curd for mozzarella, organic basil, and many other local ingredients. We enjoyed taking off the consultant hat and donning a very good-looking chef’s toque (see below).
Chef Duarte’s practices are not unique in the food world, and thankfully are becoming more and more prevalent, but I do think he is way ahead of the trend in his passion for and insistence upon these extremely high standards. He sent back the 12lb block of cheese curd because it smelled slightly like parmesan, rather than the neutral cream cheese scent he was expecting (I’m sure I would have detected the difference). I think these innovative efforts by Chef Duarte and his contemporaries around the world will push the entire food industry to a higher quality. We’re seeing the effects already as major chains like McDonald’s and Dominos are promoting their quality ingredients and their sources. It’s insistent chefs like Duarte who have shown a higher standard to their customers who in turn demand more of the places and, more specifically, the foods they eat. Now both quality and sustainability are on their way to being unavoidable necessities to succeed in this world. The chefs, restaurants, groceries, farmers, distributers and other members of the food industry who do not innovate their business models to factor in these qualities will be left behind.
We love innovation because it has unlimited value-add potential, and this movement in the food industry is one very tasty example.
- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)