Fans of El Gaucho’s classic tableside Caesar Salad may notice a subtle difference this summer – that romaine might have a bit of extra crunch and taste like it was pulled from the ground that morning, and chances are pretty good that it was. Serving the very best ingredients has always been our priority, with local and organic produce at the top of that list, and this summer marks a major milestone in our sourcing program.
In the dark, rainy days of late 2016, El Gaucho operations director, Cooper Mills, got a call from Stephen Banchero, vice president of Cedar Grove. The El Gaucho and Cedar Grove partnership goes back to the earliest days of commercial composting when El Gaucho became the first restaurant in Seattle to compost its food waste with Cedar Grove. Stephen wanted to know if El Gaucho would be interested in closing the loop by working together on a farm to grow produce for our restaurants using Cedar Grove compost. The El Gaucho team jumped at the opportunity and our chefs got straight to work with the Cedar Grove team to plan the first harvest, and Sound Sustainable Farms was born. Incorporating organic scraps from restaurants, processing that into compost at Cedar Grove, and using that compost at Sound Sustainable Farms makes this “the ultimate farm-to-table, back to the farm and back to the table program, “ said Chad Mackay, El Gaucho president and COO.
El Gaucho Fields at Sound Sustainable Farms is nestled in the fertile farmland of Redmond, WA, and uses compost generated from food scraps collected from local restaurants and residents. This year’s crop includes 78 items, including the romaine lettuce for our Caesar salads, as well as radishes, tomatoes, peas, onions, peppers and more. The farm also includes a bee-keeping operation which will provide the honey we need to make our famous roasted corn with chipotle honey butter.
“Our leadership and culinary teams have been talking about a farm for a couple of years, and working with the team at Cedar Grove was a natural way for us to get into it,” said Mackay. “Our chefs were able to make a wish list of all the ingredients they would like and we celebrated when that first delivery arrived!”
The team also wanted to share the bounty with the community, so we will be using the produce from El Gaucho Fields in the meals that our team serves twice a month at Union Gospel Mission. Our team will also get a chance to spend time at the farm with a special pumpkin patch just for El Gaucho employees and their families. The pumpkins have been planted and will be ready for the kids to come out and pick their own jack-o-lanterns.
Make plans to enjoy the delicious dishes that our culinary team has been dreaming of since they created the initial wish list last winter!