The other day, at the swank Blue Water Grill in downtown Chicago, chef Eric Kendrick held a treasure trove of
vegetables in a huge amber bowl. The haul, plucked fresh from a local farmer’s market, included deep purple torpedo onions, colorful zucchini flowers, flavorful French breakfast radishes, robust heads of yellow and purple cauliflower, and hearty Queen Ann cherries.
It was a good day, judging by Kendrick’s effusive praise.
The finds were remarkable, not only because of their uniqueness and variety, but because shopping at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park is one of the many practices that helps Blue Water Grill maintain its cachet as a “green restaurant.” Serving locally grown foods, for example, helps reduce the fossil fuel pollution associated with transportation.
It’s not easy being green, but it’s well worth the effort, say Kendrick (pictured) and Charles Przybylinski, the director of operations for Blue Water Grill for 18 months. Przbylinski has overseen a large part of the restaurant’s green endeavors.
The restaurant, which opened more than 3 years ago, is owned by B.R. Guest Restaurants, which owns 13 eateries that have received the coveted green certification from the national non-profit Green Restaurant Association. The Boston-based organization, founded by Michael Oshman, has about 260 members. The number recently dipped from about 350 after a chain that he declined to name failed to meet compliance standards. Members are charged an annual fee of $500 to $4,200, depending on their size, and they receive a “Green Restaurant” seal for their window after completing some important first steps.
Some of these steps require eateries to use a comprehensive recycling program for all products, replace all polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) products, and phase in environmental efforts each year, including conserving water, composting, converting to chlorine-free paper products and using non-toxic cleaning and chemical products.
For its part, B.R. Guest restaurants recycle glass, cardboard, plastic and metals, and have installed water-efficient faucets. At the Chicago location, to-go containers are made of 30 percent post consumer material and are toted away in plain brown paper bags. At the tables, consumers use cloth napkins and bamboo butter knives.
To ensure compliance, the association conducts spot checks of restaurants, looking more at invoices than products to determine whether the staff is indeed buying toxic-free cleaning supplies, energy efficient bulbs and chemical-free paper products. Blue Water Grill uses peroxide and citrus-based cleaners around the restaurant, Przybylinski said.
“We don’t preach,’’ Oshman said of the restaurant association. “They already know this is the right thing. We have restaurants from Tavern on The Green (New York’s famed upscale restaurant Central Park) to crunchy granola that are green certified.’’
From New York to Chicago to Little Rock, Ark. to Los Angeles, restaurants are going green to help save the environment and to tap the wallets of environmentally savvy consumers.
A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association found that 62 percent of consumers said they would likely choose a restaurant based on its environmental friendliness.