On Foodable Insight Series: How Chefs Can Innovate for Sustainability

Urban Farm & Eatery, the world's first fully sustainable restaurant that can grow all of its food — farmed, brewed, crafted, or baked within the premises —  is aiming to open this year and has a goal to serve with a minimal ecological footprint. At the forefront of this movement is chef and entrepreneur Jaime Guerrero, a multi-talented chef who focuses on the need for wholesome food and sustainable farming practices.

"I think that sustainability is something that every chef should be aware of and should be supporting. The whole idea of local and supporting hyperlocal? Our customers are asking for it right now," he said.

Guerrero is also the co-founder of the Schurz Food Science Lab, a one-of-a-kind food science program in Chicago's Schurz High School that makes it a mission to raise the next generation of the country's farmers by translating science, nutrition, and environmental awareness into real-life skills. 

"I'm trying to catch these kids in high school when they're trying to figure out what they want to do, and the reality is that us as chefs and [others in the] sustainable and vertical farming industry need skilled laborers. And not only that, we need kids curious about trying different things to keep our planet sustainable," Guerrero said.

Whether seeking vegetarian or completely vegan trends, consumers are demanding for more plant-based menu items. Superfoods, such as microgreens, are moving on to be more than just garnishes but key ingredients to a dish. Guerrero urges chefs to be conscious of and support the movement.

What things can chefs do in the farming industry to make that happen? Where and how can they improve their own sustainable practices? What practical habits can they start now as the limitation of natural resources becomes a greater challenge in the future?

"It's easy. It's actually just picking up the phone or Googling your local farms, and you'd be surprised how many farms are actually in the area. You'd be surprised of how willing a farmer is with collaborating with you and teaching you, and bringing you into their farms, and even more willing to work with you if you have a specific need," Guerrero said. 

If chefs have a specific menu item they use in abundance, or one that is sparse that they want to explore, Guerrero encourages chefs to reach out to local farmers and discover what possibilities can come out of these connections. 

Watch the full episode of "On Foodable Insight Series" to learn more.