Restaurants, too

There's a movement afoot. 

Today was in West Orange, NJ at the annual meeting of the New Jersey Restaurant Association. 

Before our screening, Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association spoke. She showed charisma in remembering a woman who'd recently passed from cancer, who had been a big part of New Jersey's Restarant community, Deborah Dowdell.

She then went on to talk about the power of restaurants in America. There are 972,000 restaurants in America. 972,000. Every day we go to these places, we order food, we share a meal together. Our restaurants are a vital part of our communities, and of our culture. Most of us have worked at restaurants, for many of us it was a first job. And yes, restaurants are directly related to agriculture, and restauranteurs and chefs are inextricably paired with farmers. 

Following the documentary, we talked about the growing trend of restaurants to source locally, a point that was backed up by a number of owners in the audience, and also later in the day by a panel of chefs talking about the current state of the kitchen. We talked about the story of Chipotle, about the amount of money that is saved when a company starts sourcing locally when possible. Instead of being trucked from one side of the country to the other, it travels 80 miles instead of 800. If half of the restaurants in America tried that- billions of dollars would be saved on gasoline in transportation annually. Betsy Alger- who for 29 years owned The Frog and The Peach- she just sold it 2 weeks back- talked about the importance of being honest in labeling menus. It's not local unless it is grown here. Folks nodded. Some chuckled.

There were more questions than time which is better than the other way around. 

In conversations through the day, many, many people came up and talked about involvement with a local farm, desire to learn, perhaps to change daily food. There's something universal in a movement. Even when people don't agree, they seem to agree. And every part of the culture is impacted. A fellow named Paul who runs a culinary school in Jersey City said that people are starting to reevaluate what it means to be wealthy. If you're making 100K- working inside- and feeling apathetic about the work you're doing- are you wealthier than someone who's making 40K but working in a job they believe in? It's a complicated question, and certainly there's valid points on each side- but it's a question more and more folks are contemplating. Paul's right- a lot of people are re-evaluating the word wealth. They are re-evaluating their own lives and their own priorities.  It's infectious, and happening everywhere at once. 

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-18 12:41:09 -0400