Starchefs ICC 2012 “The Human Cost of Food” ICW and Taranta

By Alex Galimberti, Taranta’s Beverages Director and Chef Instructor
For over a year Taranta has been dedicated to learning and supporting what we consider to be a most important element to creating a sustainable food system: ensuring good work conditions for our nation’s farmworkers. It all started during the Chef’s Collaborative Annual Summit that took place last September in New Orleans. There, we met Gerardo Reyes from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Through the connection we established with the CIW we decided to learn about farm work at the source. Chef Jose Duarte, general manager Chris Titus, and I took a trip to Immokalee where we became aware of exploitative conditions and even verified cases of modern day slavery in the tomato fields of Florida. By understanding the scale of the issues being addressed by the CIW’s Fair Food campaign we realized that as chefs and restaurant workers we represent the final link connecting the food chain from farmworker to consumer. Our position in the food chain enables us to raise awareness to our consumers and also to question the practices of the large food producers. We knew that getting chefs involved would make a great impact in this cause. Chef Duarte decided to reach out to the chef community and through the support of Star Chefs a panel entitled The Human Cost of Food brought together Gerardo Reyes, Barry Estabrook (author of the book Tomatoland), and chef Duarte to present at the  Starchefs International Chefs Congress in New York City that took place from Sept 30 to Oct 2. The key strategy employed by the CIW is to request that the largest tomato buyers in the country sign into the Fair Food Agreement that promises that they will only buy from producers that were verified by an independent auditor to be compliant with a basic set of standards that include (among other measures) zero tolerance for physical abuse or sexual harassment of farmworkers. A question that was raised during the three day congress was that Chipotle one of the nation’s largest buyers would not sign the agreement. Chipotle research and development chefs Nate Appleman and Joel Holland were also presenting in the congress. Gerardo Reyes was courteous to ask them about the reasons why Chipotle would not sign the Fair Food Agreement and he also invited them to listen his presentation. One comment that Chef Appleman said was that he is just a chef and it is not his job to worry about this. We believe that as restaurant professionals this is exactly our job. There is no food without farmworkers and there is no sustainable food without fair treatment of farmworkers. This is a human rights issue that is much affected by how we act within our industry. We would like to believe that our efforts sharing this story with the chef community has paid off. On Thursday afternoon Chipotle chairman Steve Ells signed the Fair Food Agreement with representatives of the CIW. We are happy that such an important company in our industry is now an ally in this cause. The battle is far from over but this week has showed great strides.

To learn more about Taranta’s visit to Immokalee please visit NPeaches productions and watch this video:
To learn about the Fair Food Program:

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Hop Harvesting at Blue Heron Farm

This past Monday Beverage Director Alex Galimberti and General Manager Chris Titus from Taranta Restaurant joined Rob Lucente, co-owner of Peak Organic Brewery for a hop harvesting trip to Blue Heron Farm in Lincoln, MA.  Blue Heron Farm is a small organic farm that is one of many New England farms to grow hops for Peak Organic.  Ellery Kimball, the farm manager, was kind enough to show us around her farm and explain the process of growing hops.  Also joining the harvest were Mark Vasconcelos, Rob Lurie and Sara Begin from the Specialty Department at Burke Distributing, and Patti Martin owner of Tastings Restaurant in Foxboro, a farm to table restaurant that prides itself on fresh ingredients.
The cool late summer breeze in the morning made for a perfect harvesting day.   We all met at the farm and got to work picking the best looking hops from the vine.  We learned from Ellery that the type of hop we were picking is called a Cascade hop.  This is one of the most frequently used hops in American craft brewing.  Rob had us break apart one of the hop cones and the aroma inside was incredible.  He showed us the yellow pollen that gives IPA’s and pale ales their distinct smell and flavor. Of course, a day with the owner of a brewery wouldn’t be complete without tasting a few beers.  Rob opened the Fall Summit Ale, King Crimson Imperial Red Ale, and our favorite, the Oak Aged Mocha with Taza chocolate.  The morning turned into the early afternoon and suddenly we were out of beer but had finished harvesting all the hops.  This trip was another great learning experience for the staff at Taranta to see the connection between the finished product, the farm, and the people who make it all happen. The Fall Summit Ale will be available at Taranta this Fall.

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Installation of Powerhouse Dynamics e-monitor

After seeing a dramatic fluctuation on my electric bill from season to season I decided to seek ways to better manage that energy consumption. I was introduced to the e-monitor C series for Business. The system practically tells you where your money is going, when and how much of it. the way it works is by installing sensors in every breaker and then reporting specific energy consumption by breaker to a database that gets updated via wifi through the internet. You are able to produce KWH consumption reports, recommendations, etc. The first week we installed we found a compressor working more than it should be consuming unnecessary electricity, as we found it was not vented properly.  My freezer is the N-1 consumer during the winter and I am forecasting that my AC will be during the summer. By looking at the data I am already thinking on ways of minimizing energy consumption for the freezer, we checked gaskets, we have the cooltrol installed, we keep looking. We can control behavior when Staff uses equipment, and ventilation system, we could determine exactly at what time the kitchen exhaust was turned on and if it was necessary or not. We are now looking for ways to implement motors for out kitchen exhaust that are on demand so we can modulate kwh consumtion.

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Sustainable Seafood, Local Fisherman, Traceability and QR

Exactly year ago I planned a presentation for the New England Food Service Show and the Boston Seafood Show, I was playing around with QR Codes to the point of making them edible, using branding irons to stamp them in a flour tortilla, printing chocolates and developing a silk screen with the use of  Squid ink to place a QR code , the first attempt was a success, I was able to pinpoint a specific URL with the recipe of a Lobster Causa, the first dish was the Causa QR, a fantasy of connecting a diner with the source of what they were actually eating. As I was developing the idea I met Chef Rich Garcia of 606 Congress and introduced me to Trace and Trust,  an organization that helps small fisherman through technology to connect with Chefs and Customers. I met with the developers of trace and trust and explained that I was working on QR codes and wanted to do a presentation where we could trace a specific fish and showcase the fisherman, immediately I was connected with Steve Arnold, a fisherman from Point Judith RI, and started to plan our presentation. We created a code designed by a french artist (Benoit Dupard) that was not the normal scary black and white doted code, this one had small fish and had a unique shape, we then successfully presented to the public a revolutionary method to trace fish and support local fisherman. We are happy to see the evolution of Trace and Trust in a year, with more chefs connecting with local fisherman and buying traceable, super fresh fish. For more information about trace and trust go to

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Cooltrol Installed on Walk In Cooler and Freezer

About 3 months ago we were offered a rebate program from NSTAR through National Resources Management, the rebate was for about 70% of the cost of the project and an offer to finance the 30% at no interest. Our new system will save an average of $400 per year in electricity and works by turning the evaporator to run 25% to 80% less saving electricity and reducing compressor run time. For more info visit

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Taranta will consume 100% Renewable energy starting Dec 2011

Through a matching program we are pleased to announce that 100% of the energy we will be using from December 2011 on will be Renewable from NewMix Wind Source and provided by Constellation Energy. This change represents an great step in our continuing effort to build a more sustainable hospitality industry. As of today we are also looking forward to our ISO 14001 certification,

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Morgan Linen Service – Importance of using a “LaundryESP” certified service

For a while we have been using Morgan Linen Service as our laundry service for the restaurant. Our decision to change companies is part of the process of greening our restaurant also from the upstream side. We want to support providers that have considered certifications or have achieve certain accolades for their Eco-friendly work. Morgan is a Certified  Laundry Environmental Stewardship Program. Some of the results of the program are 40% reduction of pollutants discharged, 13% reduction of water used, 11% reduction of energy usage, and significant substitution of environmentally friendly wash chemicals. To learn more about LESP go to

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Energy-Efficiency Seminar: Energize Your Restaurant Profits By Saving Energy

Yesterday Taranta hosted one of many seminars that The Educational Foundation of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association offers. The seminar was geared to restaurant owners that were interested on saving energy and benefiting form various rebate programs available for small Business. Sponsored by MassSave in junction with renew Boston and the Sustainable Business Network. Presenters were Michael Pace, Lead Engineer from National Grid, Lisa Hadaya from NSTAR, Joseph Walsh, Manager of Renew Boston, and Jose Duarte of Taranta.

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Taranta Receives the 2010 MassRecycle Award

Every year MassRecycle recognizes a select group of individuals, businesses, municipalities and organizations for their leadership and innovation in promoting recycling and waste reduction by presenting them with the “Green Binnie’ Recycling Award. Winners are selected through a peer review process and Taranta was selected among all the nominees because of the significant contribution  made to increase recycling and reducing waste. We are proud to received this award as it motivates us to continuing with our Ecofriendly efforts.

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A Recycling and Composting day with Taranta’s Staff

Last Monday we did our first field trip with our Staff to the place we send our recyclable products, food waste and biodegradables.  Our restaurant Staff has been separating all the waste and as a part of the process of understanding the reason why we do that, I decided to organize a field trip visiting Save That Stuff in Charlestown  and Brick End Farms in North Hamilton. We met Adam Mitchell  Ian Lavery giving us a tour of the facility and were amazed by the amount of cardboard and paper waste that can be recycled, as well as plastic,  glass and metal.  We drove about 1/2 hour and arrived to Brick Ends Farm, a site that receives all the food waste, yard trimmings,  etc. We learned how they “cook” compost, using wood chips and yard wast on a 1 to 1 ratio with restaurant food waste, they mix it and turn it for about 10 months and the result is a very nutritious compost that is used in Agriculture and Landscaping. During the process thermophilic microorganisms generate  heat that  can reach up to 160 F. We met Mike, a farmer that leases land at Brick Ends and utilizes the compost to nurture his crops, his farm First Light Farm was the highlight of our experience, meeting him and walking the fields literally eating fennel, carrots, second sprout broccoli and kale was just amazing. We couldn’t resist to ask him if  we could harvest some Leeks, Carrots, Celery, Cilantro and Fennel and bring it back to the restaurant. After this very educational experience we understand the importance of what we do and how good it make us feel!!  Next… an experiment cooking in the compost pile using Sous Vide Bags, perhaps a some short ribs, cooked over 10 hours….. If anyone is ever interested on organizing a trip to visit the Farm, and have lunch or early dinner with products from the farm just let us know, we will be more that happy to arrange this for you.

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