Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
"Top Green Chef" competition raises questions about the future of restaurant energy consumption
A week ago, the Port of San Diego’s Green Business Network (a mouthful of a name, that) staged a competition between a few chefs who work in portside restaurants. The challenge was a conventional, Iron Chef-style throwdown, the only catch being that the participating chefs had to work with energy efficient electrical and CNG ranges, ovens, broilers, and such at the SDGE Energy Innovation Center in Clairemont.
It looks as though the event was neither aggressively promoted nor attended. At first glance, Steve Black’s offering of chicken tacos and winning cod entree featuring macaroni and American cheese slices doesn’t seem enterprising, but perhaps the Sheraton Hotel chef’s creation was a “you had to be there” bit of genius. Regardless, Black is the first “Top Green Chef” as awarded by the panel of judges and the Port of San Diego, so congratulations are in order.
More than anything else, this competition raises the question of burgeoning energy consumption issues in the world of commercial food production. I suspect that there is a coming watershed moment in the industry where energy and efficiency regulators begin to crack down on professional kitchens, which consume considerable resources to maintain their operations.
This will eventually affect you, me, and Joe Consumer in invisible ways. Restaus that fail to adapt will be at a disadvantage, and this is going to change the climate and culture of restaurants from within. The end results can only be speculation at this point!
There’s a very good chance that the coming decade will force changes in the way restaurants do business. Between the high energy consumption required and the generation of solid waste, there’s no doubt that restaurants could be significant “green offenders” from the perspective of energy reform. What I would like to see analysed, more than anything, is the per-meal cost in terms of energy and solid waste accrual incurred by restaurants as opposed to the home kitchen. My instincts tell me that restaurant’s are actually less wasteful than home cooking in that regard, but that they are, on the whole, prime opportunities for “greening.” In theory, the marginal energy cost should be lower because restaurants are able to produce food more efficiently, but the exact figures would require close study.
Going forward from the Green Chef competition, the Green Business Network will be hosting an energy efficient forecast with SDGE at the end of January. It will be interesting to see how businesses are preparing to respond to the no-doubt imminent change in energy policy that must sweep across the industry sooner or later.