As part of the green movement, organic and natural menus are the future for restaurants, caterers, and food service for large groups, says Roger Parker of Gladieux Catering.
In addition to traditional menus, he and executive chef Rick Whitehead have developed an all-natural and organic-food dinner menu with organic salads, all natural entrees with organic sides, and organic-based desserts. So far, clients are interested, but are often hesitant because of the additional cost.
The cost of an organic grazing station with four to six components might be 10 to 20 percent higher, depending on the selections. I ve had a lot of people say that the taste difference is huge with the organic it s crisper, cleaner, and sweeter in vegetables and produce, says Mr. Parker.
Then there are the premium entrees that are organic and natural, such as the roasted bison tenderloin, a game item. A less expensive item is free-range chicken breast. People might ask for natural for less price than organic, he says.
It s harder to have local products on a catered menu. When we get a salad, we want 12 cases, says Mr. Parker. Local places can t keep up with our volume.
Chef Whitehead looks at local produce. Zucchini and squash are random size, he says. So are asparagus and strawberries as compared to a place growing more product. For plate presentations for 600, you want them all to look the same. Area produce in Michigan and Ohio is very good, but it s a short season and availability can be inconsistent.
While the amount of organic produce and products have doubled in recent years, Mr. Parker thinks the cost will eventually level out.
For dessert, there s an apple and golden raisin cobbler with Anglaise sauce. If it s a traditional preparation, we could use an already prepped and peeled apple, but if it s organic we have to peel and process the apples, says the chef. It s labor-intensive. We look for ways to save labor.
The catering company uses greenware that looks like plastic but is a product derived from corn.
The new dinner menu at the Holiday Inn French Quarter introduced June 9 has some green items. Niman Ranch and Certified Angus Beef Natural and Organically Farmed 14-ounce strip steak ($30.99) and cowboy steak (a bone-in rib eye) are on the menu. The price for the 16-ounce steak is $27.99 which is slightly higher (than nonorganic), but it is selling well, says Michael Sarantou, food and beverage director. Not everything is green, he says. We can t do everything because of the volume.
We use locally grown produce and organic grown produce, too. [During the recent recall of tomatoes], we didn t have to remove tomatoes from our menu because we are using locally grown. We know the source. We ve worked with our vendors.
The organic Balsamic Barbecued Chicken is $13.49. The same dish made without organic chicken would be about $11, he says, giving credit to chef Jason Hunyor, 25.
It s slightly more expensive but it s a trade-off, says Mr. Sarantou. All of us would like less hormones in our food.
Lake Erie perch is on the restaurant menu. The chef takes advantage of local fruit with the accessibility of blueberries and strawberries. Strawberry shortcake on a drop biscuit might be a dessert special.
At home, we pick and chose what we can do to be green easily, comfortably, and financially, from recycling bottles and/or cans to opting for tap water in place of bottled water to reduce the use of plastic bottles. When possible buy local, natural, or organic food at the supermarket.