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Ethics and Fine Dining – Chef Christine Keff talks Organic Part 2

Organic is a sustainable practice. There’s no separation between sustainable and organic.

I think a lot of chefs have some sort of “heebee jeebee” about organic – “It’s always expensive”, “I can’t afford it”, “It’s granola and Birkenstock’s”, “It means we can’t have the great ingredients that we want”, when it doesn’t mean any of that at all. You can get fresh organic turmeric from Hawaii for example, and most people don’t even look for organic turmeric.

I think a lot of chefs put organic way at the other end of the spectrum because they don’t know what’s possible. They think that if they have an “organic” restaurant, it will mean having a “granola” restaurant.

What have been the more difficult items to get organic? Lemon grass was hard. Bean sprouts were hard, oddly enough. Evidentially it was the mung beans themselves that are sprayed with something to keep them from rotting.

There have been times when items simply weren’t available. This was the case with turmeric where all the fresh turmeric was gone, and all that was left was stuff that was rotting. So we’ve learned to keep certain items frozen.

What’s been the best part of the last year? Well, our lives are not a lot different than they were before. We just know that we’re doing this and it feels good. It feels good to make some products readily available to those who want to make those choices.

How have been the customers’ reactions? All good. They’ve appreciated it. We’ve given them added value and we haven’t put them through the ringer. What’s not to like?

I spent quite and lot of time to finish this article and I really hope you like it! What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments section below! Love ya’ll! Hugs and kisses!

Ethics and Fine Dining – Chef Christine Keff talks Organic

To get the costs back down, we found it was simply a matter of manipulating the menu. Instead of saying “This case of broccoli costs half as much this other case”, we instead looked at paring higher cost items with lower ones. We can put higher cost broccoli with lower cost fish, and the costs even out over the course of the entire menu.

You’ve been organic for almost a year now. Where their any problems over the course of this time that caught you entirely off guard? What I didn’t anticipate was the staff resistance. I actually lost a chef over this. I was really surprised by that.

He was one of the people who thought that going organic means going “granola”, for lack of a better word. I had not anticipated that at all, because, for me, I wasn’t thinking about organic meaning “hippies” and “communes” and all that kind of stuff. For me it was something very specific. I was really floored by that. Eventually he just didn’t want to do it, and he left.

When I sat down with Tom Douglas, he said that he makes his food choices based on locality, sustainability and the organic. How much thought did you put into both locality and sustainability? I’ve heard other chefs say “It’s all about local. Organic doesn’t matter.” I think that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum and you don’t want to be there either. They both matter.

I’ve decided to draw the line in the sand with organic and not use fresh ingredients that aren’t organic, and I don’t specify if they’re local or not. It’s a first step and it takes the chemicals out of the equation.

We try to buy local as much as we can. But local here means a very short produce season. What do we do the rest of the year? Do we just go back to buying industrial non-organic stuff? I won’t let people diminish the importance of organic just because they’re focused on local.

Doughnuts

I can’t remember the first time I ever had a doughnut, but I can certainly remember the best time. I was young—young enough that I still wore overalls and an ID bracelet—but old enough to know that doughnuts were a treat.

My dad was a baked goods connoisseur: Burgermaster had the best bear claws, Leonard’s had the best malasadas, and the Washington State Ferries had the best old-fashioned doughnuts. It was on a ferry ride to Orcas Island that I discovered the beauty of the day-old doughnut.

“Saran Wrap is the trick,” my dad said triumphantly, picking up a mummified doughnut in the galley and shaking it gently. “It keeps the doughnut moist.”

When we got to the cash register, the woman ringing us up said, “That’ll be a quarter.” My dad glanced gleefully down at me with a look on his face that implied we had basically robbed them blind.

On top of being a baked goods connoisseur, my dad was also incredibly thrifty. A doughnut that was cheaper but a day old was undoubtedly tastier than a fresh baked doughnut that cost double.

Sitting down with our doughnut, my dad allowed me the pleasure of slowly unwrapping the plastic until a perfectly moist old-fashioned doughnut was revealed to both of us. He pushed it toward me.

“You do the honors,” he said, and I did, carefully breaking it in half. One side came out bigger than the other, so I handed that half to him. Naturally, he wound up giving me the bigger side that’s just the type of dad he was.

Many years and many doughnuts later, old-fashioneds are still my favorite. I even prefer them wrapped in plastic, then broken in half. (But I will take them fresh, too!) When we decided to publish Lara Ferroni’s cookbook, Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home, I wondered if I’d ever leave my house again.

Sure enough, Lara’s recipes are easy and delicious, and the doughnuts are fresh and moist even without Saran Wrap. They aren’t cutesy like a cupcake, and they go better with coffee. What’s not to like?

I do wonder what my dad would think about this cookbook; I wonder if perhaps it would provide the inspiration he needed to actually make something in the kitchen other than a PBJ. I can only wonder as he passed away in 2007. But I do know that he will be smiling down at me next spring as I cut my wedding cake. A wedding cake made entirely of doughnuts.

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream

Makes 6 to 10 doughnuts

Active time: 15 minutes | Ready in: 40 minutes

1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup (75 grams) superfine sugar

1/4 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter or vegetable shortening

Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir in the salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, egg, and butter until smooth. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick, then cut out the doughnuts using a 2 1/2-inch-diameter cutter. You can reroll any scrap dough.
  4. Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until a deep-fat thermometer registers 360 degrees F.
  5. With a metal spatula, carefully place the doughnuts in the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until light golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Let cool just slightly before glazing.