|SmallBytes February 2014 Edition|
Dan Soloway: Sustainable sourcing is not a fad
Although they aren't working out on the treadmills, the chickens served by Union Square Events are eating just as well as the members of Equinox fitness clubs. The chickens have Daniel Soloway, the purchasing operations manager at Union Square Hospitality Group, to thank for this. Soloway wanted to find a way to use the pulp left over after making juice at the restaurant group's Creative Juice cafes, located at Equinoxes throughout New York City and Connecticut. He approached the farmers who supplied the group's chickens about using the pulp as feed. And a "true partnership" was born, Soloway said.
This partnership ensures Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) knows what their chickens are being fed and "closes the loop," Soloway said. Local and sustainable are a "part of everyday life for us," said Soloway who works with all of the USHG establishments, which includes Maialino, The Modern, Gramercy Tavern, North End Grill, Union Square Cafe and Blue Smoke restaurants.
Many of the restaurants' menus are chef driven, meaning Floyd Cardoz, the executive chef at the North End Grill, might call on Soloway to help him find the perfect pork. Or Michael Anthony, executive chef and managing partner at Gramercy Tavern, might be looking for a specialty vegetable he's not finding in the Union Square Greenmarket. Danny Meyer, the chief executive officer and founder of the group, has been shopping at the Greenmarket since he opened Union Square Cafe in 1985. Soloway takes sustainable sourcing to the next level. He might take a road trip to a farm in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut that's too small or new to sell at the market. "These farms are not coming to you," he said.
"It’s akin to being friends with the kids in your neighborhood when you were a child," Soloway said. "If you could drive at five you may not have been friends with the kid across the street.”
Although local is important, sustaining and promoting small producers that are making fantastic products anywhere in the world is an aspect of Soloway's job as well. On a recent trip to Italy, he met small, salami, balsamic vinegar, and grappa producers. The grappa made quite an impression. He discovered an Italian family has been producing grappa for 500 years. They had never exported to the United States, until now. Their grappa will appear on some USHG menus soon.
While other restaurant groups might try consolidating and purchasing from the same producers across various restaurants, each of USHG restaurants has many of their own producers. Each chef may prefer a different producer for beef or even beets. And that's fine by Soloway. "When you go to the Modern you have access to a totally different basket of goods on the menu than when you go to Gramercy Tavern. Otherwise we would just have a replication," he said. "Each of the restaurants are unique and one of the things that makes them unique is what they have sourced and chosen to put on the menu." Soloway's duties don't end at the kitchen door, either. Finding unique linens, silver, and china all fall under his job description. His job may even include sourcing seeds for farmers to plant. Wherever the job takes him, he's careful not to call his sustainable style of sourcing a trend or a fad because "that would mean it's going away."