For Rick Bayless, sustainability and local sourcing are not only good for business, but have become a way of life.
The Chicago-based celebrity chef says he started buying local products nearly 30 years ago, when he opened his first restaurant. The owner of five successful Mexican-themed concepts — Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco, Tortas Frontera and Frontera Fresco — was concerned about where he’d find the best food to serve his customers and knew it would likely come from his community’s farmers and manufacturers.
“Those local sources taught me who the people that were taking care of the earth really were,” he says, “the ones who were doing the right stuff and taking the right steps in the right direction. They taught me how important it was to put my money where my interest was, so I learned how to balance my menu so I could buy really great products that my guests loved and maintain a healthy bottom line at the same time.”
Bayless says he makes it a priority to choose products that don’t use a lot of resources, thinks about his electricity and water use, and sources locally whenever possible.
“When I think about sustainability, I think about how we’re leaving the planet a better place than when we came onto it,” he says. “Once we put that on our radar screen, we started to make the right decisions.”
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For tips, tools and information about practicing sustainability at your restaurant, visit the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve website