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“It starts with the kids” – Bon Appetit Sous Chef Gibson Price on sustainable food and how it can transform the future

Our recent interview with Carleton Bon Appetit Executive Chef Michael Delcambre was such a success that we sat down with Bon Appetit’s Sous Chef Gibson Price to continue the conversation about local sustainable food and how it can change our communities for the better. (Interview by Bridge Guiza). Read the Delcambre interview here.

Gibson Price

Bon Appetit Sous Chef Gibson Price

What is your background?

My name is Gibson Price and I’m a Sous Chef with Bon Appetit.

Here at Carleton College, we make sustainable and fresh foods on a daily basis. One of the benefits is working with local farmers and Main Street Project is pretty cool because it gives other people opportunities of growing farms and having more local and sustainable products.

I’ve been with Bon Appetit for three years now. My first experience with sustainable and all-natural food was at the Corner Table in Minneapolis, with a local and sustainable chef, Scott B. I was just getting out of culinary school; I went to Minneapolis Community Technical College for Culinary school. Scott opened my eyes up to menuing locally.

How do you share Bon Appetit’s vision for sustainable food?

Here at Bon Appetit we do a lot of educating. We talk about the pros of organic and the pros of all-natural. We pose the question: “What is organic?” and continue asking, “how is this organic?” There are variables that apply to that. Is it really sustained organics? Then you have to think about the shipping of the products, and about whether organic and conventional products are shipped together.

When it comes to the consumer, it’s about educating them about both, especially when doing their grocery shopping. What’s safe and what is not? It is about educating the customer and engaging them in the dialogue of what ‘organic’ and ‘all-natural’ mean to them. Is it important to you? Is it important to your kids? Is it important to the future? For example, natural products with no growth hormones are very important to someone like me.

How can we further consumer engagement?

There has been lot of research about certain substances in our food. Do they contribute to autism, and do they give you cancer? It’s similar with food allergies. If you look at it statistically, a lot of food allergies didn’t start until the 70s. If you look at large groups of people, basically in the 70s the processed food boom happened, that’s when everything became processed. Personally, that’s where I think a lot of these allergies came from. But you can also argue that in the modern day everything is recorded. So who’s to say that it didn’t happen before, for example like 300 years ago? It just wasn’t necessarily recorded.

More or less, it’s about educating your customers about what’s organic, what’s all-natural, and what the difference is. When you are on a tight budget you may not be able to purchase organic and sustainable products. It’s all about people’s wants and needs and what they can do. I wouldn’t mind being all-natural all the time at home, but I don’t necessarily have the funds for that. When you have a food service group like this and you have student bodies that share the consensus and concerns, you can provide them with better options.

What does all-natural mean to you and what can consumers do to eat all-natural?

Being all-natural to me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s organic. To me, it is naturally grown, with no growth hormones, and no antibiotics. People need to rethink how they shop and how they eat. A lot of people will go to the grocery store once every two weeks and they buy $300 worth of stuff. Half the time, we are wasting about 40% of food. I go to the grocery store every two days and I go to markets and buy what I need for the next couple of days. I think that helps me be all-natural instead of going to the store and spending so much money on processed food.

Yes, it’s going to keep, it’s going to have a longer shelf life. In the modern day we don’t necessarily need shelf life, because food is everywhere. That’s more or less what I like to do. Being a chef, we need to see this through from start to finish, especially with Bon Appetit, since we are a sustainable company. Other conventional restaurants order things where they don’t necessarily know who picked it, who processed it, who trucked it in, and if they are getting fair wages.

Yes, you can get a conventional product; you know people always want cheap, cheap, cheap, more, more, more. What about the workers? How does it affect the economy? How does it affect everyone? If you want to pay your workers a decent wage, you are going to have to pay more for your product. The customer wants that because then they have a clean conscience that they are buying sustainable all-natural products and that everyone in the process from the farmers, to the transport, to the chefs feel good about it. That’s more or less where I come from.

There are farms where people barely get paid any money. For the big corporate giants, they get to sell all of the products for cheap but how does that affect the little people?

If you’re on a budget you can still buy organic, but perhaps not as much. With the purchasing of sustainable and all natural products, if we get more people to purchase that way, it can slowly fix the food system. You have to start somewhere.

What do you like best about working as a Chef with Bon Appetit at Carleton?

Working here at Carleton gave me the opportunity to identify the future, which are the students of colleges. I think that’s where a lot of this starts. Colleges are giant think tanks with a lot of students exploring what they want to do and make it possible to push social change. They see problems and want to fix them.

I think if Main Street Project moved in to more college campuses nationwide, it would give young people the opportunity to spread their roots. Once they are off on their careers, they will always go back to what they have learned. Also, to me it’s about being an honest and decent human being. A lot of kids learn that in college. Students push their ideas to create change. In the future, the cycle gets carried on. That’s my philosophy of fixing the food system. It all starts with the people. You can’t necessarily stop a giant corporation. There have to be a lot more people behind it. I think with Main Street Project, it starts at the local community level. It’s about educating. It can also be about trends: organic, all-natural, fresh. We used to eat like that not so long ago. That’s just the way it was. We can go back to that. It starts with the kids.