Rick Bayless is chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo
in Chicago, creator of Frontera gourmet foods, cookbook author and host
of Mexico - One Plate at a Time.
Frontera Collaborations for Sustainability
There are probably many of you wondering about the title. Why collaboration? What does collaboration have to do with sustainability anyway? Isn't sustainability about lowering my carbon-footprint, or shopping for organic vegetables at Whole Foods, or wearing t-shirts made from bamboo?
Well, here at Frontera, one of our goals is to live "sustainability" everyday. And by that we mean we recognize an active, positive and thoughtful interaction in three inter-related spheres.
Investing in our community, our staff, our customers, and the local family farmers who grow for us. Without these people we cannot be sustainable; we are not viable. Sustainability begins with the relationships we have developed with members of our community and it is fueled by their creativity and energy.
Living in balance with our environment and the seasons. We all live off the land, even if we are not farmers or growers. It is essential for us to respect our relationships not only with the people who grow our food, but with the soil that nurtures it. Our aim is to serve flavorful, artisanal food grown responsibly by people we know.
Running our restaurant in a financially responsible way. Without a commitment to our economic underpinnings we cannot continue to support local agriculture, nor maintain and grow our staff. In our restaurant, managers are committed stewards of their budgets. Together we work from month to month, and year to year, to sustain healthy, manageable growth.
Collaboration is at the heart of our commitment - it is the driving force in the food we serve, and the creativity behind how we serve it. Through collaborative action we bring more people into the fold, we generate new ideas, and we adjust the balances.
XOCO and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification
The LEED Program:
- LEED is a third-party certification program run by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Its goal is to push forward the field of environmentally sustainable building and design, and to codify these efforts through the LEED recognition program. There are several different programs under LEED for various building types.
- XOCO was certified under LEED Commercial Interiors 2.0 (or LEED-CI). To read more about USGBC or LEED visit the www.usgbc.org.
- There are four levels of LEED Certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. A project must obtain a certain number of points in order to receive certification. There are 57 points available. The ratings range is as follows: Certified (21-26), Silver (27-31), Gold (32-42) and Platinum (42-57).
- XOCO submitted for 35 points, putting the restaurant safely in the Gold level. The USGBC audits projects before awarding the certification. We are currently waiting to hear the final assessment of the project.
LEED Standard and Process:
- The LEED standard is made up of 6 categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation and Design Process.
- Various points are awarded for specific credits in each category. Some items, like a recycling program, are required. The points are further broken down between the Design phase and the Construction phase.
- The LEED Certification process begins with the design stage and carries through to the final approval of a building or space. Some LEED programs also monitor the operations and maintenance of a building or facility. LEED-CI does not monitor operations. LEED is involved and made aware of every step of the process. Those step are:
- Design and engineering (collaborative process, also sets a benchmark for eventual rating achievement)
- Construction (the building process is intensely monitored by the GC, Architect, LEED Accredited Professional, and commissioning agent)
- Commissioning and Testing Performed (to be sure systems were built to specification and are running properly)
- Submittals (online data entry and submittal of all information and evidence to prove the points claimed were achieved)
- Audit (USGBC thoroughly audits and checks all claims)
- Awarding (final decision and announcement is made)
- * Continued Monitoring (if necessary, per the specific LEED program. XOCO has no ongoing monitoring)
Specific Areas XOCO Achieved Points:
- Points were awarded for building in a dense area close to public transportation
- We provide employees with bicycle storage and changing rooms which encourages cycling as an alternative mode of commuting. Not providing employee parking and locating the restaurant close to public transportation also encourages more efficient transportation use.
- ROOFTOP: At XOCO we have covered the rooftop with a soy-based reflective coating. This lessens the heat-island effect of a typical rooftop, which translates into less energy consumption for heating and cooling.
- ROOFTOP: Further, there is a large rooftop garden on XOCOs roof that covers over 1,000 SF. The rooftop garden serves many functions including: capturing heat that would otherwise create a heat island effect decreasing heating and cooling needs; absorbing water and diverting run-off into storm drains; and, of course, providing fresh local organic produce to use in our kitchens. The garden is made up of Earthbox growing units that use efficient irrigation techniques.
- XOCO uses upwards of 40% less water in its operation in comparison to a comparable standard restaurant of its size. To achieve this, we installed the following water conserving equipment and fixtures:
- Low-flow, dual flush toilets.
- Low flow rinse valve for warewash that uses less than 1.28 gallons per minute (gpm).
- Energy Star Rated Dishwashing machine
- High efficiency water heater
- Low flow water aerators make faucets use less than 1.0 gpm.
Energy and Atmosphere
- Green Power: XOCO has purchased Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that offset our use of traditional energy consumption supplied by the energy utility (In Illinois, our energy primarily comes from coal and nuclear power). XOCO in particular works with Carbon Solutions Group. The REC we purchased focuses on Biomass Clean Energy production. (Frontera and Topolo have an REC as well with a different company that focuses on windpower).
- Energy Performance: XOCO was designed and engineered by dbHMS to maximize the spaces energy performance. This is true for all mechanicals, especially the HVAC system.
- AVTEC ECO-ARCH HOOD: A particularly interesting feature of the ventilation system is the use of a brand new revolutionary hood from Avtec (a member of Unified Brands). It is called the Eco-Arch due to its brand new arched design. The arched metal within the hood forces air towards the front grates (different from a traditional hood where the grates and exhaust exits through the back). Due to this design, the Eco-Arch uses 50% less energy by pulling 50% less air from the space while still ventilating extremely well. This, in turn, means bringing in less tempered and conditioned air, lowering overall energy consumption.
- The bathrooms, dishroom and storage area in XOCO contain occupancy sensors that control the lighting and ventilation. These sensors turn the systems off when the rooms are not occupied, reducing energy use.
- XOCO received points for having individual metering in place for all utilities. This allows better assessment of performance and energy use.
- Although we did not receive points for it, the lighting design in XOCO utilizes the latest in energy efficient fixtures. There is a mixture of several different types of lighting fixtures and lamps: LED, halogen, compact fluorescent and incandescent. The LED fixtures are the most advanced of their kind and are award winning fixtures produced by Lightolier.
- XOCO utilizes a number of Energy Star Appliances, from the ovens to the fryer and all refrigeration. Also, LCD screens for POS and induction cookers.
- HVAC and refrigeration equipment use coolant with the lowest possible standard of CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons are a green house gas that depletes ozone) production.
Materials and Resources:
- XOCO diverted 80% of its construction and demolition waste from landfills.
- Utilized 15% recycled content material, including recycled denim fiber insulation around the bathroom core. Other materials with recycled content include countertop, tile, drywall, metal studs, concrete, and the entrance mat.
- Utilized at least 20% of material from regionally manufactured sources, including the countertops, floor tile, and banquettes.
- All wood used in construction was Forest Stewardship Council certified. (www.fsc.org) FSC is the gold standard in sustainable forest management and sourcing. They are an independent third party agency.
- Our recycling and composting program is first rate. This is a requirement for a LEED building. All of our material is collected by the Resource Center.
Indoor Environmental Quality
- XOCO was designed to provide daylight to 75% of the space.
- XOCO was built using all low emitting or non-emitting sealants, adhesives, paints and coatings. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can be highly toxic, especially in enclosed spaces. The various sealants, caulks and paint used in XOCO are either no-VOC or low-VOC to help create a cleaner and less harmful environment for guests and employees.
- We were also awarded points for the ability to control our lighting, temperature and ventilation systems.
Innovation and Design:
- XOCO was awarded several points for innovation and design. These include using green housekeeping and sanitizing items. For example, our hand soap is Green Seal certified, as is our window cleaner, counter cleaner, floor cleaner and warewash cleansers. The warewash cleansers, the mini-max system, also reduce packaging amounts, lowers shipping weights, and the need for excess storage. Our composting program, green packaging, and urban food production are all up for an innovation point.
Other Sustainable Features in XOCO
- Local and sustainable food buying many benefits, including supporting local economies; supporting sustainable and better ecological agricultural practices; lowering shipping and transportation costs, and using less fossil fuels; health and nutritional benefits.
- Free purified sparking and tap water purification systems and better designed and more affordable than ever. Free tap water reduces shipping costs associated with bottled water, as well as the enormous amounts of plastic produced for it.
- Compostable packaging commercially available compostable packaging is a step in the right direction. Compostable packaging is produced from plant based plastic called polylactide or PLA. It is fully biodegradable and a great alternative to oil based plastics. Our paper based to-go packaging is also compostable and made from paper goods sourced through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Notes From Rick's Address to the 2009 Openlands Luncheon
"Chicago's Sustainable Food Landscape"
- Openlands recognizes the value of the rich agricultural heritage that is part of our larger region. The prime farmland soils of Northeastern Illinois needs protection to continue to provide food, fiber, groundwater recharge, buffers for natural areas and rural character. We also work with urban neighborhoods to establish community and school gardens. However, we cant have a thriving economy for local food if there is no land to grow it on. Policies which help farmers stay on the land, reinvest in their operations and provide opportunities for new farmers to buy land need to be established.
- Openlands advocates for farmland protection policies at the local and state level which help farmers stay on the land, reinvest in their operations and provide opportunities for new farmers to buy land. In the surrounding counties, Openlands works on programs where farmers sell or donate their development rights to preserve the agriculture use of the land forever.
- Openlands Community Greening program has worked since 1993 to help Chicago neighborhoods plan, install and care for community-managed parks and gardens as part of community-wide plans for permanent open space. Some of the gardens are sitting parks with shade trees and perennials, but many others grow vegetables in at least part of the space. The vegetable gardens are typically shared communally among the gardeners and their neighbors, but a few divide the space into family allotment gardens.
Chicago Farmer Markets
- 37 Farmers Markets recognized by the city of Chicago (either independent or city run).
Green City Market
- 55 Current Vendors
- 14 Vendors are Certified Organic
- 16 more vendors are in process; submitting application, undergoing inspections or audits.
- 3rd part certification: Green City Market is encouraging all vendors to be certified by a 3rd party. The market is helping to educate and encourage farms on the processes and policies of certification.
- Attendance: Biggest day in 2009 was a Saturday where over 6,000 people came to the market.
- On Wednesday roughly 1500-2000 attend on average. On Saturdays 4000-5000 people attend.
- Around 80,000 visitors attend the summer market thus far in 2009 and the market anticipates breaking the 100,000 person mark by the end of the year with the Winter Market.
Michel Nischan Wholesome Wave Foundation 61st Street Farmers Market
- Wholesome Wave Foundation has planted double-value grants (where the value of a food stamp credit is doubled at farmers markets) in 55 communities in the United States.
- Chicago runs 22 farmers markets, and none of them accepts food-stamp credit (or EBT)
- By contrast, there are 56 farmers markets in New York City that accept them, 14 in Boston, 29 in Philadelphia and 27 in Los Angeles. The City of Chicago has stated publicly that is working to implement a similar program.
- There are 1.5 million people in Chicago on food stamps; and only 10 markets in all of Illinois that will accept EBT (food stamp) cards. Illinois suffers from the nation's fourth-worst level of childhood obesity, a problem health authorities combating with better access to fresh produce for the poor.
- If not for two independent markets (61st Street Farmers Market and Logan Square Market), Chicago would offer no reliable food-stamp access at farmers markets.
Chicago City Hall Honey Bee Project
- A number of beehives are located on top of City Hall and the Cultural Center.
- The honey is bottled and sold at the Chicago farmstand (on Randolph between Michigan Ave and Wabash).
- Up to 10,000 pounds of honey are harvested and sold each year.
- There are three farms - Les Brown Memorial Farm, Wood Street Urban Farm, and the Su Casa Market Garden - all are USDA Certified Organic.
- Produce from these farms are sold at Green City Market and the Englewood Market, as well as wholesale to top Chicago restaurants.
- In 2008 the farms produced over 28,000 lbs of produce and earned $94,000 in income.
- Growing Homes fundamental mission is to provide job training: 90% of its graduates stay out of prison. And over 90% find stable housing or rent their own apartments.
City Farm and Ken Dunn
- The farm boasts thirty varieties of tomatoes as well as beets, carrots, potatoes, gourmet lettuces, herbs and melons.
- The farm is based on a model of mobile agriculture, where organic topsoil is brought into abandoned city lots to create raised beds from which to grow food.
Gary Comer Youth Center Rooftop Garden
- The garden is about 8,100 square feet, close to 1/3 of an acre.
- Opened in May 2006.
- Produced 1,000 pounds of produce last year.
- Includes potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, greens, pumpkins, popcorn, flowers and herbs.
- Students work the garden along with staff, goals of training and helping kids make it through high school.
Uncommon Ground Rooftop Garden - Owners Helen and Michael Cameron
- Certified Organic Rooftop Farm by MOSA in 2008 - 2500 square foot deck. First in the Country
- Winner of USGBC Enviromotion Award
- Establishing community in Rogers Park through the garden and farmers market events.
- Organic plants rotate through raised beds
- Include varieties of sweet and hot peppers, varieties of eggplant, lettuces, heirloom tomatoes, radishes, beets, okra, spinach, fennel, mustard, bush beans, and shallots.
The Green Chicago Restaurant Co- op
- The Co-op was founded in 2007 by restauranteurs Dan Rosenthal and Ina Pinkney to make it possible for restaurants throughout Chicagoland to purchase green products and services at very affordable prices.
- The Co-op also serves as a terrific source of information about green events, green services, and both state and local legislation that impacts the environment.
- Since its founding in 2007, the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op has grown to the point where it now has over 200 restaurant members and 150 affiliated business members. Membership is free.
- Just last month, the GCRC launched "Guaranteed Green This is a restaurant certification program that helps Chicago-area diners identify and support local restaurants that take significant steps toward protecting the environment. Twenty-five of Chicago's finest restaurants, including Frontera Grill, have signed up to lead the way by committing to becoming "Guaranteed Green." Once these restaurants get certified, Chicago will have the most certified green restaurants in the country.
Chicago Composts LLC
- Every one of Chicagos 12,000 restaurants generate more than 50,000 pounds of garbage every yearand the EPA says that more than 72% of that waste can be diverted from our landfills by composting.
- Last year Chicago restaurateur Dan Rosenthal formed Chicago Composts LLC and entered into a partnership with The Peninsula Compost Group of Wilmington Delaware to bring commercial composting to Chicago.
- Chicago Composts has now secured a 40 acre site on the south side of Chicago and will soon be seeking a permit to bring the nations largest commercial food waste composting facility to our city.
- In addition to restaurants such as ours, organizations such as Whole Foods, the Shedd Aquarium, Hyatt Hotels, and even the Cook County Jail are working closely with this group to provide a continuing supply of food scraps for this project.
- Chicago Composts will be using state of the art technology created by the W.L. Gore Company to create high quality compost that can be returned to our local farms to create a truly closed loop cycle of providing local sustainable food to our community.
- The facility will be LEED certified and divert more than 200,000 tons of organic waste per year from our waste stream.
Chefs Collaborative Summitt 2009 in Chicago
- Key point from the Summitt of national chefs: We need to encourage the growth of the midsize sustainable farm.
Cleetus Friedman and the Chicago Sustainable Food Coop.
- Just coming out of the "pilot stage" and about to launch it to the rest of Chicago, hoping to gain buying power.
- The goal is to have over 25 members by the holiday season.
- This buying power and larger number of purchasers will put money back into local farms, hence guaranteeing them more business and helping them sustain their farms.
- More CoOp members means more money to local farms.
- Working with Testa, starting with restaurant staples such as onions, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.
- Once CoOp grows in membership, they plan on moving into proteins, dry goods, and more.
A Look at Local
Who wouldn't want local? It's the freshest, right? But using local ingredients also forces us to be seasonal. For chefs, having a direct relationship to seasonality – having to create with a given season’s bounty – is dynamic and challenging. We get a short window to relish certain flavors whether they be tomatoes or ramps or squash blossoms. And once they’re gone, there’s a deep yearning for that season’s return. All the dreaming, wishing and planning in the off-season – it drives our creativity and makes those flavors that much more special when they return. It seems intuitive, doesn’t it? But when you’re craving strawberries in January and you see them in the grocery store, it's not always easy to say no.
When we say "local agriculture," we are not always talking about farms beyond the Chicago city limits. Urban agriculture is a growing section of local food production. We produce many of our own greens in the Bayless Family Garden right here in Chicago. And during the summer, we have an expanding project growing rooftop tomatoes and chiles for summer salsa harvested amongst the skyscrapers. There are also an expanding number of people turning their own little plots of urban soil into gardens and orchards, and others are joining together to create community gardens right inside the city limits, changing the face of “local.”
For urbanites to develop relationships with farmers enriches the lives of those here in the city, as well as helps sustain family farming in our countryside. That kind of direct connection creates community and investment for the future health of family farms. Through farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs, urbanites and farmers alike can share their experiences and create a different and more thorough understanding of the systems of local agriculture, including the economic, social and environment underpinnings, that sustain us all.
Some Important Questions
Is the meat and poultry served in the restaurant humanely raised?
- Our free range chicken and duck is from Gunthorp Family Farm.
- Our pastured lamb is certified organic from Janie Crawford’s Farm.
- Pastured Boer goat is from Justin and Trent Kilgus of Pleasant Meadows Farm.
- Specialty beef is all grassfed from Bill Kurtis’ Tall Grass Ranch.
- All other beef and pork are raised without the use of growth hormones or anti-biotics.
What about seafood? How do you navigate the many issues related to seafood?
that are caught or raised in an environmentally sensitive manner not only
benefit the health of the oceans, but also provide many opportunities to
improve the growth and sustainability of seafood businesses and restaurants
such as ours.
whether a fishery is environmentally sustainable, we can look into the
following factors: how abundant a species of fish is, how many fish are being
caught, what other types of marine life are caught with the fish, whether
endangered species are harmed, and what effects the fishing gear has on ocean
habitats. For farmed seafood, we can
look into the type of system used to farm the fish, whether the farms release
pollution in the water, what types of chemicals are used, the amount of wild
fish used as feed, and whether the farmed species is native to where it is
Seafood harvested or raised in a sustainable way,
often has superior taste, freshness and quality. Seafood products that are abundant and well
managed are worth the time and money we spend at Frontera Grill to retain these
products in order provide them to our guests.
We can all do our part and play a critical role in protecting the marine
environment now and for future generations.
Do you recycle?
- We recycle about 245 gallons of glass a week.
- We compost approximately 2 tons of organic material a week.
- We recycle about 735 pounds of vegetable oil a week by giving it to one of the farms that supplies us, Spence Farm, for them to turn into bio-diesel to power their delivery van.
- We recycle all cardboard and paper products.
What about wine?
We incorporate biodynamic wine, and wine grown from organic and sustainable viticulture into our wine list. Our sommelier distinguishes these wines on our list in green.
The Frontera Family of Local Family Farms
Ken Dunn & Kristine Greiber of City Farm run an organic farm bordering two very diverse Chicago neighborhoods: Cabrini Green and The Gold Coast. Located on the west side of Clybourn Avenue, just north of Division Street, the farm boasts 30 varieties of tomatoes as well as beets, carrots, potatoes, gourmet lettuces, herbs and melons. All produce is grown in composted soil generated from various sources, such as restaurant trimmings from some of the finest kitchens in Chicago like Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
At Crawford Farm in New Glarus, Wisconsin, Janie and Andy Crawford have pastured their lambs, which they sell exclusively to Midwestern restaurants, on 250 acres of rolling green hills. Janie has also been raising market hogs.
Greg and Lei Gunthorp raise pastured hogs, chickens, ducks, rabbits and squab on their 65-acre farm in LaGrange, Indiana. They also have finished building a USDA certified poultry processing plant at the farm.
Hidden Falls is a cooperative of small family run fisheries in Alaska that only use hook line harvesting, no nets. The fisheries harvest salmon, sable, halibut, and king crab. It is the goal of Hidden Falls to create an ethical and safe fish program that incorporates biologically sustainable criteria and benefits small family fisheries.
Jeremy McWilliams, age 16, owns and runs Little Farm on the Prairie, where he raises pastured chickens and turkeys. He has been providing turkeys to Frontera since the fall of 2006 and currently supplies the restaurant with eggs. He also provides fresh eggs and chickens to the local grocery stores near his home and fresh turkey to individuals for the holiday.
Trent and Justin Kilgus, ages 14 and 17, began their small goat herd in 2006. They pasture raise their goats in Pleasant Meadows Farm, just south of Fairbury, IL. This season they have increased their herd to over 100 goats. The growth will enable them to greatly step up the amount of high quality goat meat they sell to Chicago restaurants.
Prairie Fruits Farm raises organic, fresh and flavorful fruit and sustainably made cheese. They are the first farmstead cheese facility in Illinois. Their Nubian and La Mancha goats are raised on locally produced high quality hay and pasture, and only their milk goes into their cheeses. On just seven acres of rich prairie soil in the heart of Central Illinois, they have begun to transform the landscape from cash grain agriculture to diversified perennial fruit trees, berries and goat pastures.
Tucked in the rolling hills of Wisconsin's Southern Kettle Moraine, Rushing Waters is one of the most beautiful fish farms in the United States. On 80 acres of pristine forests and valleys, 56 ponds are fed with crystal-clear artesian spring water. These deep underground springs maintain a very cold water temperature ideal for producing healthy rainbow trout. Rushing Waters Fisheries has been growing rainbow trout since the 1940s. This is their first year participating in the Festival.
Bill Shores runs a garden management and design business that focuses on intensive, small-scale gardening systems. He has training in biointensive gardening, permaculture, garden design and plant biology. With over 10 years of experience running organic commercial food gardens, designing urban landscapes and teaching, Bill works with clients to utilize indoor and outdoor urban spaces for food production and edible landscaping. He currently manages the Bayless Family Production Garden where he raises microgreens and salad greens.
Bill Warner and Judy Hageman of Snug Haven Farm raise winter hoophouse spinach, early season tomatoes, cut flowers, and arugula on their picturesque two acre farm in Paoli, Wisconsin. They also head up Frontera’s tomato freezing project each summer and provide us with tens of thousands of pounds ripe, height-of-the-season tomatoes to cook with during the winter months.
Marty and Kris Travis of Spence Farm run the oldest family farm in Livingston County, Illinois. Visitors are encouraged to experience and learn about farm life of yesterday and today, exploring such topics as diversity, heirloom crops, heritage breed animals, conservation of natural areas, woodland management, restoration of buildings, and preservation of heritage. They raise a wide variety of crops and specialize in harvesting ramps, wild greens and pawpaws.
The Stewards of the Land is a group of local families helping to change the world by producing fresh foods for kitchens across Illinois. The farms of the Stewards are all located within a 50 mile radius of Fairbury, Illinois, a small farming community nestled among large fields of commercially-grown corn and soybeans. With a mission “to create, maintain, and support the family farm, to help them become and remain sustainable and profitable, and to provide the same opportunity for future generations,” the Stewards are working to maximize the potential yields of specialty crops like mulberries.
Tallgrass Beef, founded by Bill Kurtis (journalist, rancher, conservationist, and owner of The Red Buffalo Ranch in Kansas), is a group of independent family-owned farms that raise cattle that graze on natural grasses rich in nutrients and high in anti-oxidants. The result is beef rich in omega-3 fatty acids, high in Vitamin E, higher in beneficial unsaturated fat, and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. Their beef is sold in restaurants, select grocery stores, and through their website tallgrasssbeef.com.
At Three Sisters Garden, Kathe Roybal and Tracey Vowell (former managing chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo), are starting their 7th season of producing sustainably raised vegetables (including all the huitlacoche used in Frontera and Topolo) and cut flowers on their nine acre farm in Kankakee, Illinois.