Gurus, LGATs Restaurants and Going Green
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 27, 2011 05:22AM


For an atheist, I have what one might consider an odd obsession: new religious movements. San Francisco has a long history of birthing or coddling them and many would argue that these entities are spiritual rather than religious – just like many a San Franciscan. But that doesn't mean that the leader or organization doesn't proselytize, promise some form of ecstatic or liberating catharsis and, maybe most importantly, attract both zealous converts and zealous detractors.

And nearly ever spiritual movement in history has had an opinion on what to eat, or not to eat, and when. Mainstream examples abound – think of Ramadan, Passover, or Lent. While any number of restaurants in this town has cult followings, only a few have been associated with groups accused of being an actual religion. Beyond exploring the intricacies of their personalities, practices, rituals, belief systems, and the attendant controversy, I had a simpler question: "How is the food?" So I set out to try the fare at some of the city's restaurants that not only promise a hot meal, but also a side dish of enlightenment.

Mission Landmark

(For Rick Ross archived information on Landmark Education go here. The 'Litigation' section gives the documents on the attempt by Landmark to ruin Rick Ross's website. The suit was dismissed-with prejudice. Corboy)

Additional discussion on message board.

My first stop was Gracias Madre, just a few blocks away from my apartment. It's run by the same folks who operate the Café Gratitude chain and Be Love Farm, adherents to the life-changing potential of Landmark Education. Landmark is the corporate and spiritual descendant of Erhard Seminars Training, or EST , which repackaged the American revival tradition with Eastern philosophy and behavioral psychology as large group awareness training back in the ’70s. According to an article in the East Bay Express , Landmark's influence includes mindfulness sessions at the start of shifts and $495 introductory seminars attended by employees who are urged to participate.

What I discovered about Gracias Madre is that the restaurant is well aware it’s competing with some of the best Central American cuisine in the country, and doing it with at least one hand behind its back – namely, no meat, dairy, and as far as I could tell, no gluten. Instead, the business seems to hang its success on the appeal to a different kind of fundamentalist than those who argue about the merits of La Cumbre over El Farolito. Instead these fundamentalists set Michael Pollan against Jonathan Safran Foer, all while holding appeal for the casual diner who might not know or care that they are eating vegan.

The space is as modern and designer-wrought as any you might expect along the 18th Street foodie corridor (which includes the Bi-Rite Market and Tartine), with a large mosaic mural of Mother Earth blessing la raza with delicious produce at the entrance portico.

But Gracias Madre is much less overt in its approach to spreading the message than mother-chain Café Gratitude, which offers positivism to its customers with menu item names like "I Am Worthy." The only hint of an ulterior motive is the brief mention on a menu subhead reading "Our Mission Is Love," and who doesn't love "love"? Otherwise, the menu reads like something from Oakland's Doña Tomas – brief description of items and sources, hewing to authentic classics, and with prices to match.

I wanted to judge Gracias Madre against the standard set by its neighbors and not only by its spiritual or dietary adherents, so my friend Schlomo and I ordered the two most classic items on any Mexican menu. My entrée sported a lone tamal stuffed with butternut squash. Schlomo's enchiladas con mole poblano were, at best, "deconstructed" – just sautéed mushrooms and sauce poured over the house tortillas. If Gracias Madre was going for accessibility, they've succeeded in the sense that everything felt prepared and then swung under a salamander just before serving, like a typical sit-down Mexican joint. Our entrées showed up before the cauliflower appetizer; that's how fast they put plates up.

Schlomo and I came away with leftovers, and the notion that it would be a good place for a date if we were trying to get in a vegan's pants.

Supreme Cuisine

(Rick Ross archived material on Ching Hai [])

Additional discussion on message board

The Loving Hut concept came from Ching Hai, a woman known to admirers as the "Supreme Master." Hai is, according to the literature available at the restaurant in Chinatown, a "world renowned humanitarian and spiritual teacher." While Loving Hut isn't a franchise operation, according to the website , it is a chain with 10 locations in California, nine in other states, and more around the world. The menus and decor might vary, as each is apparently family run.

I brought along my friend Min Jung and her 10-month-old daughter. MJ is, like me, more of a "meat tooth" than a sweet tooth. Loving Hut offers all sorts of faux-meat products, with the faux shrimp winning rave reviews from Vegansaurus. The menu looks similar one of a typical Chinese-American diner, offering both Eastern dishes in clay pots and Western favorites like burgers and fries, plus smoothies and deserts, and at eminently reasonable prices.

Of all the restaurants I visited, however, the Loving Hut was the most overt in presenting the central message of the movement's founder. Hai graces the cover of free booklets and pages of the menus themselves extolling her "Save the planet, go veg" campaign. She is also seen on Supreme Master Television, which was playing quietly in the background on a large flat screen at the back of the restaurant.

We started with the Ocean Basket, which included the faux shrimp, mushroom, green beans and bean curd skin with seaweed, all panko-crusted and deep-fried. The seaweed added the one nice note of the sea, and the mushrooms (which could have stood in for oysters) were nice and juicy. And the shrimp? Surprisingly shrimpy for something reportedly made from yams! "Uncanny" was the word I used to describe the texture and appearance, and MJ agreed, adding that they were "incredible" and "actually tasted like shrimp."

But the faux animal didn't end there. In fact, it was hard to find dishes that celebrated vegetables as vegetables on the menu. Almost everything had some sort of soy protein standing in for meat, including the Three Cup Wonder, which was almost entirely puffy, textured soy something standing in for chicken or pork with a smattering of sweet red dates and goji berries. Even the Thai Pineapple Fried Rice had little flecks of the faux barbecue pork tossed in.

But at $35 for a relatively healthy, filling lunch for two adults wasn't so bad – and while we joked that we could always grab some pork buns for dessert, we didn't actually feel the need. The Loving Hut is probably a beacon for vegan and vegetarian tourists after a long walk past the roast ducks and beheaded fish in the windows and stalls of the shops on Stockton.

Guru Gourmet (Sri Chinmoy, now deceased. Rickross archive information here [])

Frederick Lenz also now deceased, aka Zen Master Rama, started out as a disciple of Chinmoy before starting his own cult franchise. []

The next stop was at one of the city's oldest spiritually inspired eateries, Ananda Fuara, which is run by disciples of guru Sri Chinmoy . Like strict Buddhists in East Asia, there is a long tradition of vegetarianism in Chinmoy's homeland of India and a broad and flavorful but meatless culinary tradition to match. I brought along my Uncle Richard who was in town from Charleston, South Carolina, for a philosophy conference. He's mostly vegetarian, but occasionally eats seafood.

We started with the samosas, which were larger than those typically found at Indian restaurants and seemed to be baked rather than deep-fried, more resembling an English pasty or South American empanada. Still, the potato, pea, and raisin filling was flavorful, complemented nicely by a sweet mango sauce. Richard ordered the curry dinner so I went with the Neatloaf, since I'd avoided the Western-style comfort foods at Loving Hut and figured that, at worst, at least there would be mashed potatoes.

The Neatloaf – along with the curry and saffron rice – was not aggressively spiced and resembled an egg-and-ricotta frittata. It was saved by a tangy tomato-based sauce that was actually pretty good. The potatoes with mushroom gravy would pass muster at any diner. The generous, colorful salads seem to be the real specialties – I spotted one at another table, and would probably go for that on another visit.

The wait staff was quite friendly, and for the odd hour on a particularly barren stretch of Market Street, it was busy. On a previous visit a few years ago, it had been quite packed for lunch, which explains its staying power near the Civic Center, because unless you're craving donuts, hamburgers, or Vietnamese food, there aren't many options in the immediate neighborhood.

As for the proselytizing? Well, there are a number of large photos of Chinmoy looming over the room, as well as what appeared to be paintings from his series of "Soul Birds." And the noodling on the flute that played in the room was likely from one of Chinmoy's musical recordings, which along with postcards of the paintings and a series of books, are for sale next to the register. I grabbed a quick information sheet, which listed Chinmoy's many accomplishments and suggested that anyone interested in learning more should just ask the servers – confirming my suspicion that, at least in the front of the house, we were meeting devotees

Cheeseburgers in Paradise

What did I learn from the experience? Well, what struck me was the effort that was put forth to mainstream the various organizations and their ideals. And jokes aside about low-protein diets used to make potential converts more suggestible, it's clear that one of the easiest ways to reach out to people spiritually is by appealing to the universal need for more worldly sustenance in the form of food.

These small businesses also embodied an entrepreneurial spirit that seems very San Francisco. They are a unique blend of secular capitalism and free spiritual expression, though it's not quite clear which is co-opting which. And I have to hand it to all three restaurants – while the quality of the food varied, the quality of service did not. You could do worse than being waited on by people who really believe that the true path to enlightenment starts at your stomach.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/2011 05:30AM by corboy.

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Re: Gurus, LGATs and Restaurants
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 27, 2011 05:30AM

Anything that has biodynamicly farmed food or wine is also tied to a secretive cult--Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy

Too often Biodynamics and Permaculture are presented as the same. They are not the same.

I typed biodynamics vs permaculture into the basic google slot. Look down at the citations and you will see some saying "biodynamics and permaculture"


This can easily mislead people who want to get involved with gardening and who if told the full facts about Anthroposophy (which includes Biodynamics) would refuse to get involved.


Stir- Crazy: Permaculture, Biodynamics and Compost Teas
Posted on 24 July 2010 by Graham
In a recent interview, permaculture teacher Albert Bates discusses Rudolph Steiner and Biodynamics:

Click here for MP3

Albert defends Steiner on the basis that Anthroposophy has created a “tribe” which he sees as a good thing. In reality, Anthroposophy is more like a cult, which obscures its intentions, and is doing untold harm in persuading people that just making stuff up is somehow just as good as scientific experimentation. Albert gives an uncritical appraisal of Steiner’s contributions to education, social care and organic farming, claiming that it provides a “holistic world view” lacking in reductionist, mechanistic approaches.

I have blogged on zone5 about biodynamics before, describing what it is, reviewing some of the scientific evidence, and explaining why it can have no place in permaculture.
BD is a system of superstition, based on astrology, sympathetic magic and animal sacrifice, believed to be true entirely on the say so of Rudolph Steiner, who never gardened or farmed himself, and claimed his knowledge came from clairvoyance, not scientific experimentation.

It is surely obvious that the reason people think it “works” is because they are doing all the things right that you need to do anyway to be a successful gardener or farmer. The superstition has nothing to do with it, although it can be argued that BD growers do well because they are more committed and spend more time in the field, and pay more attention to detail.

Anecdotes such as “I smelled the soil on a BD farm, it was wonderful!” are not science. Anecdotally I can tell you that people regularly come to my own garden, smell the soil and say “how do you get such rich black soil, it smells wonderful!”

Now, if I told them it was because I work with cycles of the moon and hang deer bladders from trees which I then add to the compost to bring down etheric energies, maybe that would be enough to convert them to BD.

Permaculture however is based on a scientific understanding of ecology, also physics, chemistry etc; so something as wacky as BD that lies far outside anything verifiable by science can play no role here.

Call a spade a spade: BD- and the occult philosophy of Anthroposophy it is a part of- is a religion. As such it can have no more part in permaculture than any religion- eg. how would permaculture students respond i wonder if I told them in a class that praying to Mecca five times a day will help the plants grow?

At this point folk will probably ask “what’s the harm?” but this is unfortunately easily answered.

BD is not just any old superstitious woo, but part of what has been called the most successful form of ‘alternative’ religion in the [twentieth] century, with hundreds of organisations worldwide including banks (Triodos), schools and colleges, and the social care Camphill Communities.

This is all very impressive- would that permaculture had achieved as much!- and therein lies the real danger, because underneath the superficial similarities with the aims of permaculturalists of alternative education, community care, organic gardening etc. lies a seriously dysfunctional ideology of anti-science and mystic racism.

Anthroposophy had historic connections with the rise of Nazism and propagates notions of Aryan supremacy, as has been extensively researched by Peter Staudenmeier.

The education system of Steiner-Waldorf schools is based on Steiner’s racist beliefs about karmic incarnation:

On the one hand there is the black race, which is the most earthly. When this race goes toward the West, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, in the middle between the earth and the cosmos. When this race goes toward the East, it turns brown, it attaches itself too much to the cosmos and dies out. The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race.

For many years now there has been a growing movement by parents disaffected with the covert aims of Steiner-Waldorf education, which is not to educate but to somehow guide the child’s “soul-journey”. Pity is, neither parents nor children are told exactly what is going on, while the schools themselves continue to pose as a more child-focused, alternative educational choice in order to seek state funding. In fact, they are part of a growing organisation based on a shadowy occult religion, where poor academic standards, cultish beliefs about racial purity, bullying (“it’s his/her karma”) and hard-core astrological mumbo-jumbo all-too-often prevail.

The Camphill Communities, run on Anthroposophical lines, might look like a benevolent form of social care but in fact often are based on the religious belief of Karma, ie that the physically or mentally impaired are so for karmic reasons, such as wrong-doing in a previous life.

What exactly the aims of this religion are is difficult to say, but like all religions Anthroposophy is trying hard to propagate itself, and the environmental movement, organics and now permaculture as well are all easy targets which have become vehicles for distributing a frankly vile set of beliefs.



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Re: Gurus, LGATs Restaurants and Going Green
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 27, 2011 05:35AM

A discussion here that erupted when another guru led concern in Hawaii was about to get an idealistic new volunteer worker for its Dharma Farms (its noni plantation) in Hawaii, and the young person's parent wrote to us in concern.

Anyone who wants to get involved in a farming project has to do plenty of background checking.

The discussion begins here:


Fancy, a concerned parent wrote:

My son is interested in going to Hawaii to work on Dharma Farm. Should I be concerned for his safety? I have heard about cult type activities. I would appreciate any information

Mr Ross replied:


Yes. I would be very concerned if there is any connection whatsoever to Chris Butler, his business interests and/or group of followers.

Butler has been described as a "cult" leader. And ex-members relate accounts of what seems to be a very negative environment that is potentially unsafe concerning the Butler group.

Go and read the following two pages. Lots of fun to read and informative.

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Re: Gurus, LGATs Restaurants and Going Green
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 27, 2011 05:37AM

Years ago, people in a professional physical therapy training program at one university had a nice class T-shirt that read:


Well, so do various leaders and groups which conceal their ideologies. Fact check. Your body, energy, idealism, your time and effort are valuable. You want to make sure you give of yourself to ventures whose actual beliefs are not secret, not exploitative, play no favorites, and dont operate so as to enrich and empower just one or a very few at the top of a heap of idealistic peons.

Stay a citizen, friends. And freedom is not free. You have to fact check.

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Re: Gurus, LGATs Restaurants and Going Green
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 27, 2011 09:25PM

This item mentions the Down to Earth health food chain. As noted above, the Butler Krishna group mentioned here has the Dharma Farms which is the noni plantation.

Again, friends, freedom isnt free. Fact check so that your volunteer efforts are for
those in need, not those in greed


September 27, 2011 09:03AMKailua_no more SIF
Date Added: 09/15/2009

Posts: 1 Re: Chris Butler, Jagad Guru, Science of Identity


To all participants of this thread and to the administrators of this site:

The real info can be found in Kailua, Oahu. As is well known already from those who have read on here, the main headquarters of the Butler cult is in Kailua. What has not been revealed is the code names given to certain areas/subjects/people/connections:

1. The members refer to their headquarters in Hawaii as Site. Members of the cult worldwide recognize this pseudonym as it means the current residence of Butler.

2. The members meet on Waimanalo beach and Bellows air-force beach for their code named "picnics". The members gather to worship Butler on weekends, location and time determined either the day before or the day of in order to prevent information leaking out. Butler is a extreme conspiracy theorist(he believes there are assassins out to kill him) and will not always show to these gatherings. But, weather and crowds permitting he will show up for a couple hours to lecture about servitude and to throw raisins to his ecstatic followers. He prides himself on his throwing abilities, having played some baseball as a youth in Hawaii.

3. Butlers step children and selected followers train in Wu-Shu (chinese dance martial art) at Kailua beach park. Butler sometimes strolls by to chat and have respects paid to him. Be wary if you approach them, Butlers step son(a tall attractive asian-american male whose name coincidentally is Siddha, which is Butlers spiritual name too) is known to be extremely hot-headed and can become physically violent.

4.1 Some members of the cult are willing to speak as long as you don't come across as a reporter, the danger of being exposed as a snitch to Butler is too great of a risk: physical/legal threats, abandonment by family or banishment from island. While banishment sounds like sensationalism, most of the cult members income come from a network of low-level businesses run by senior members of Butler's cult. Therefore if the Butler finds a member offensive to him, his senior member will fire the offender and given the near poverty level of the person + the expense of living in hawaii, he/she would be forced to leave. This has happened before to people found offensive, multiple times.

4.2 Some younger members are willing to talk, such as an very handsome australian male code-named "Vishnu das". He is very into mountain biking, tricks and trails. Another member who might expose info is code-named "Balaram Bali das", his father is one of the head managers of

food chain.

5.1 Some info on Butler himself: Butler has lived most of his life on oahu, growing up on the north shore. In his mid teens, he fell in love with a local girl who broke his heart, sadly he didn't even make love to her before it ended. After that experience traumatized him heavily, he swore off women and claimed to practice a life of celibacy. This is hard to believe as he was a yogi in the forest of Kauai getting massaged by males and females every night and now to this day is married and lives with an asian yoga teacher, code-named "Vaishnava Dasi". Butler began searching out Kundalini yoga and opened an ashram on Kauai, where he attracted most of his now senior members(code-named "disciples").

5.2Butler discovered ISKCON, and brought his followers to surrender to ISKCON's guru, AC bhaktivedanta swami. Once AC bhaktivedanta died in the mid 1970's, Butler decided he was enlightened and started initiating disciples in his own lineage. He fed his new found disciples stories of AC bhaktivedanta's great love for Butler and how AC considered butler to be a "pure lover of krsna(god)". Butler enlisted Katyayani dasi, his longtime friend, in helping his mission but things soon died out in a power struggle, which culminated recently in a direct command from Butler to his members "not to in any way come into contact or seek out contact with katyayani dasi or her students/disciples".

5.3 Since the early 1980's Butler has claimed to have extreme environmental illnesses that could kill him, yet it seems improbable as he lived in india for at least 6 months and in the moldy/mildew forests of Kauai. Furthermore, a conversation with a previous doctor who is an ex-cult member has diagnosed Butler's illnesses to be completely somatic and has further alluded that Butler appears to be a high-functioning schizophrenic/sociopath.

5.4 Butler own's mansions and property internationally, purchased through the profits of his devotees "devotional service". He and his family(daughters husbands and grandkids) reside between his 3 homes in Lanikai, each multi-million dollar properties. This is only a minute look into the magnitude of which he exploits his followers, who live in garages and out of cars. Some of the "serious students"(defined as those who are willing to devote their lives to Butler) live in tents in members yards.

6.1 Last info for this post: The health clearance system for those who live on "Site"(Oahu). Members are divided into groups labeled: A, B and C. Members who are C's are allowed to go into public places without mask's on, basically this is the bottom of their caste system. C's are allowed to hold jobs in which they interact with the public; they can work at Down To Earth. There are incubation periods in order to move up classes and these periods can range from a week to 3 months.

6.2 B members are restricted to only going into public places out of necessity: shopping for groceries, thrift stores, food drives or Shopping for A's. Members who are labeled B's have to wear surgical masks in public places, as well as disinfecting everything when they return home: wash clothes, shower, sanitize bags and cars/mode of transport. If you have ever shopped in Kailua you will definitely have encountered B's before. If a B member comes within 30 ft of a C member, they are demoted to C class.

6.3 Class A members are not allowed any public interactions and are hindered from coming within a 50 ft radius of a member who is C class. Class A members typically are engaged in personal servitude to Butler: His cooks, med-large private security(mostly young, impressionable males), his family, secretary and certain administrators for his various "projects". If an A member gets sick, they are demoted to a C: if a A member comes within 50 ft of a C, they become a C class member.

6.4 Butler's class system is reminiscent of a totalitarian pseudo-capitalist regime: The majority of his followers are C's, while their B class(think middle class) is a small margin. Think 150 C members, 30 B members and perhaps 20 A members. The A members have all living expenses paid for, work 6 hrs a day and most live close or on the beach in private residences paid for by Butler. While anyone can theoretically can become an A class member through making it through the incubation period, they have to be first approved and cleared to serve Butler, making the upper echelon very hard to reach.

It is a lot of information but hopefully it sheds light on what is going on. I have taken great pains to find this info and and slowly condensing everything I have learned: I have information on a large number of their organized locations: local, national and international. I also have a large amount of info on senior members and "disciples" as well as information on the scandalous dealing(s) between Mike Gabbard and his congress race against Congressman Ed Case. I Highly recommend observing their weekend "picnics" at the beach's listed: just be sure to maintain a low profile as they are very paranoid.

It is time that Chris Butler AKA Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa Prabhupad comes into the light.

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Buying & Selling Virtue-Cults, Gurus LGATs Dining Shopping Being Green
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 29, 2011 07:40AM

"Sustainability is not regulated, so it can mean anything that anyone wants it to mean — and a lot of people are lying," said Aaron French, who wrote the "Eco-Chef" column for ten Bay Area News Group papers and helms the kitchen at Albany's Sunny Side Café. "Sustainability is a values-based word, like 'freedom' and 'justice,' so it's ultimately undefinable. And now everyone from the biggest corporation to the smallest restaurant wants to jump on this bandwagon."

The Meaning of Sustainability It's a hot buzzword, but there are no guidelines or regulations for its usage. What should it really mean?
By Anneli Rufus


It pops up everywhere, this adjective implying that the food so labeled is superior and so are you for eating it. Sustainable suggests a certain everlastingness in which nothing gets hurt or dies.

"Sustainable" is the new "natural." It's a big buzzword. But what does it mean?

Nothing. And everything.

Neither the FDA nor any other government agency maintains official sustainability guidelines, although the Saratoga-based Sustainable Business Institute confers annual Seals of Sustainability.

"Sustainability is not regulated, so it can mean anything that anyone wants it to mean — and a lot of people are lying," said Aaron French, who wrote the "Eco-Chef" column for ten Bay Area News Group papers and helms the kitchen at Albany's Sunny Side Café. "Sustainability is a values-based word, like 'freedom' and 'justice,' so it's ultimately undefinable. And now everyone from the biggest corporation to the smallest restaurant wants to jump on this bandwagon."

How's that local/seasonal/sustainable stuff workin' out for us? French says it's biting us in the well-meaning butt.

"We now have more farmers' markets than are good for us," he said. "This creates so much competition between small organic farmers that they can't always sell enough product" to merit the jaunt. "And if a farmer drives hours and hours back and forth to three markets a week in his old pickup truck from the Eighties, is this a good thing? In terms of crop diversity and supporting independent farmers, yes. In terms of carbon footprints, no."

Carbon is one slice of a sustainability pie that's bigger than most of us realize. Other slices include fertilizer inputs, farm size and location, soil type, population shifts, and more. Despite his degrees in ecology and biology, French finds these variables daunting.

"It's very complicated. As a consumer, how do you integrate all that?"

Chefs in the progressive Bay Area are, not surprisingly, keen on the concept of sustainability. But even they have differing opinions on what exactly it means and how to best employ it in their restaurants.

For Gather's Sean Baker, it's about "cooking with respect and care" and using "ingredients that were raised with respect and care." In his kitchen, "we throw almost nothing away."

Baker one-ups other chefs who boast of using the whole animal by using the whole fruit and vegetable. "People normally throw away peels, seeds, and tops," he said. "We don't."

Take watermelon: Baker pickles its rind, feeds its peel through a Champion juicer to mix with green tea and create gels, and sears its flesh to use in dishes.

Carrot peelings are transformed into ash, destined for carrot-ash vinaigrette. Cornhusks, cobs, and tomato ends are toasted, grilled, charred, and pressure-cooked for stock. Deep-fried cornsilk is a lacy garnish.

"I can't save every single beet top, though I wish I could," said Baker. "It takes more work to cook sustainably than not to cook sustainably."

Gather's popular kale salad "blows through a hundred pounds of kale a week and produces enough kale stems to fill huge compost bins," Baker explained. "So I sat down with a notepad trying to think of how to use kale stems."

Solution: Pressure-cook them, braise them in puttanesca broth, then serve them with melted burrata on toast.

When dining at restaurants not his own, Baker has a keen eye for pseudo-sustainability. "I can tell when they're using non-organic broccoli rabe. I can look at a menu and know for sure whether they're really using the whole animal or not. I don't make a scene, but I know.

"I have a huge problem with people who don't walk the walk."

Minimizing waste is also top priority at eVe, where husband-and-wife chef-owners Christopher and Veronica Laramie train their staff to sort all kitchen trash into the appropriate City of Berkeley recycling bins.

"All of our glass, cans, and plastics get separated and recycled, and it works out so efficiently that we create only one small bin of garbage every week: no more than a typical family of four," Christopher Laramie said.

The Laramies say they embrace sustainability through two practices: using animals that are low on the food chain, and using whole animals: "We nearly always have an odd cut on the menu." Recent examples include Kobe beef tongue, sweetbreads, and the cheeks of veal, monkfish, and Kurobuta pork.

The Laramies favor sardines, squid, spot prawns, and shellfish: "Eating small fish that are easily replenished — because they have a shorter maturation time — greatly reduces the chances of overfishing certain species," Christopher explained. It also reduces the risk of ingesting mercury, which commonly infuses the flesh of large predator fish.

"Being connected to the food we serve is a passion for us. Our goal is to provide the best dinners we can, based on the most educated decisions about where this food comes from. We look for local and sustainable ingredients first — but if the quality and price aren't right, we're not going to use it.

"The grandiose theory of local sustainable food that Alice Waters has famously popularized is just that: an ideal. There are very few ways to achieve that ideal," Christopher said, "especially considering most people's budgets. And what if you lived in Cleveland?"

Berkeley's city-run recycling program makes Trace Leighton and Daniel Clayton glad to be opening their new restaurant, Origen, here in October after years spent working in Contra Costa County. Leighton long brought eggshells, rinds, and other detritus home from her Pleasant Hill restaurant "because in Pleasant Hill, your only choice is to throw things away.

"We've both known for most of our lives that the resources on this planet are very limited. So for a very long time we've both been walking in the world saying we wanted to use as few resources as possible. I've spent the last ten years trying to make up for the way the soil on this planet has been treated for the last fifty."

How to go about this? By being super-scrupulous about suppliers and foodsheds while raising the alarm about genetically modified produce.

"The ugly truth is that there's nothing less sustainable than an out-of-season tomato," Leighton said. "It has been grown under conditions that are not naturally hospitable to these crops, where chemicals are used to alter the soil and kill bugs. It's the least sustainable produce you can get your hands on, yet these things are in virtually every salad and hamburger in America."

Clayton finds inspiration in fish-farming operations "that don't pollute the environment or introduce new species into the ocean but end up leaving it cleaner and giving you clean fish that you can trust." His favorite examples include Tomales Bay-based Hog Island oysters and Sea of Cortez-based bycatch-free, deepwater-pod-raised Fisherman's Daughter shrimp.

Origen's wine list is sourced just as painstakingly as the rest of its menu — because sustainability extends to wine, Clayton said. "Most people don't realize that conventional wine is filtered with eggwhites. Conventional wineries use millions of eggs from enormous battery farms where pollution and chemicals are rampant and chickens live a horrendous lifestyle."

"The biggest problem these days overall is how disconnected most people are from their food," Leighton lamented. "The new popularity of this word 'sustainability' is a wonderful first step, if it gets someone thinking they're a good person and makes them curious about what's in their food and where it's sourced from."

For most chefs, it comes down to sourcing. Jason Kwon, who reopened Berkeley sushi standby Joshu-Ya this summer as Joshu-Ya Brasserie, offers curious patrons food-source lists citing pasture-raised poultry from Marin Sun Farms; humanely raised beef from Kansas' Creekstone Farm; organic produce from Yolo County's Fully Belly Farm; low-carbon, fair-trade, organic milk from Petaluma's Clover Stornetta Farms; and wild seasonal seafood from around the world.

Such divulgences are becoming ubiquitous. But eco-chef Aaron French remains skeptical.

"What's unfortunately being hidden by all of today's greenwashing is the fact that the vast majority of 'sustainability' initiatives do not originate in companies' research departments but in their marketing departments," he said. "The 'sustainability person' is almost always the marketing person."

Meanwhile, true sustainability turns up in surprising places. "Wal-Mart has forced all its food suppliers to use smaller and smaller amounts of packaging," French said. "No other store in the universe had the muscle to do this. Because Wal-Mart's so big, it's selling more organic stuff than anyone else in the world. So, in effect, Wal-Mart is reducing pesticide use by millions of pounds per year."

On his Sunny Side menus, French identifies low-carbon choices and calculates the "food miles" that certain dishes incur. But he fantasizes about another sustainability strategy: bugs — namely, the soft grubs he ate while studying science in Africa.

"They're super-low on the food chain, so you can grow them on nothing. And they're totally tasty. Fried in hot chili oil, they're crunchy and crispy on the outside and rich and delicious on the inside.

"I would love to have a grub taco truck."

Well — maybe some kinds of sustainability will never catch on.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/29/2011 08:03AM by corboy.

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