The growing trend of diners becoming more health conscious and environmentally aware in their restaurant choices is spreading throughout the hospitality business, even in remote locations such as Belize, according to the restaurant manager of the Lodge at Chaa Creek.
Bryony Fleming Bradley, Chaa Creek’s food and beverage manager, said she and her staff have been surprised by the number of guests enquiring about not only the ingredients of their meals, but how those ingredients are sourced. She said such enquiries are welcome and shows that “people are becoming more involved in the entire dining experience.”
“Years ago people were happy to just get a nice meal in this part of the world, to find a little variety from rice and beans. Now, more and more, diners are asking things like how pesticide free the ingredients are and how big the ecological footprints of the meals we serve are. It’s a very healthy trend, and one we welcome,” she said.
Ms Fleming Bradley said because Chaa Creek maintains a Maya organic farm to supply the eco-resort and as an example of Maya agriculture techniques, their restaurant’s meals tick many of the boxes when it comes to satisfying diners’ concerns.
And growing your own food is becoming a model other restaurants are beginning to emulate, she said.
“I must admit to being surprised when we had a sudden rise in questions about sustainable food sourcing, but it was great to see our guests’ reactions when we explained how we grow or otherwise get ingredients. For example, I hadn’t heard the term ‘locavore’ or much about the local food mile diet movement until several guests mentioned it, and then thought, ‘hey, this is what we do naturally’. I started reading up on it and realised what a healthy trend it is,” she said.
Ms Fleming Bradley explained that local food diet movement has been growing rapidly in the US and Europe as more people calculate “food-miles” or the distance it takes for food to travel from farm to plate.
She said she’d read about Swedish research that calculated that the ingredients of a typical Swedish breakfast consisting of apple, bread, butter, cheese, coffee, cream, orange juice and sugar travelled a distance that was equal to the circumference of the Earth before reaching the table.
“True or not, it really made me think about the whole concept of food miles, and how the local food movement really dovetailed with our own commitment towards sustainability.
“Obviously, in a developing country such as Belize you need to import many ingredients and things such as fine wines to satisfy our guests’ expectations of quality food and service. However, this can be offset to a large degree by growing what you can and buying locally.
“Our award winning head Chef Mario Alejandro Mendez learned to cook in the kitchen of his Maya grandmother, so we naturally use a lot of local food and seasonings. But even his excellent Italian and other cuisine use Belizean mozzarella and locally farmed fruit, vegetables and meats, with great results. It shows that you don’t need to compromise quality for the sake of health or the environment,” she said.
Ms Fleming Bradley said that considering what she hears from Chaa Creek’s diners, the trend towards locally sourced food is here to stay and will continue to grow.
“It’s always good news to hear that something you’ve been doing as a matter of course is becoming more popular. And now we even have a name for it. I can say that at Chaa Creek we’re committed locavores, and that’s pretty cool,” she said.
The Oxford American Dictionary chose “locavore” as the word of the year for 2007, attributed to author and professional chef Jessica Prentice of the San Francisco Bay area.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is an award winning eco resort set within a 365 acre private nature reserve in Belize.