All great cuisine begins in the dirt. Although this isn’t something we are thinking about as we enjoy that great cuisine. It is, however, something the team at M Culinary Concepts based in Phoenix, Arizona, thinks about all the time.
The team is committed to making a difference in sustainability by starting at the core of the food cycle – with honeybees, worms and a healthy obsession with dirt.
“We began thinking very seriously about this in 2011 when we began a zero-waste challenge working on the mega-event, the Waste Management Phoenix Open,” says Michael Stavros, Partner and Director of Biz Dev at M Culinary.
Last month, Stavros shared his knowledge and systems with members of the Elite Catering + Event Professionals (ECEP) at the organization’s symposium.
The thought process begins well before there is a used plate to recycle. “Our sustainability focus has shifted from direct efforts such as that, which we do, to a larger focus on the food cycle itself,” Stavros says.
“It all begins with bees,” he explains. “More than 30 percent of all food we consume is dependent on the pollination the bees create.” And with the survival rate of bees in danger, it’s time to do something.
FROM A TO BEES
M Culinary has been eagerly exploring avenues to become beekeepers. Stavros looked into starting a program on property through Alveole, or sponsoring a bee colony off-site.
The Canadian company promotes urban beekeeping working with many types of clients such as hotels, restaurants and corporations to install and maintain beehives on site.
And there are also bee support programs M Culinary is actively looking into such as The Beecause Project that offers a variety of grants to schools and non-profit organizations. Through Honeybee Grants, Pollinator Literacy Grants, and Pollinator Habitat Grants, they strengthen the connection between young people and pollinators.
While bees get a lot of media buzz these days, not many want to talk about worms. They aren’t as cute, or endangered, and yet worms are a seriously important part of the food cycle. They help produce vitamin-rich compost that aids in food production.
M Culinary works closely with the Arizona Worm Farm where sustainability begins by sustaining the life of the worms. The chefs collect food scraps during pre-event food prep and food waste from post-event clean-up and donate them to the Worm Farm who then uses the material to feed worms. The worms are then either …
· Fed to chickens which lay eggs. The eggs are sold and proceeds are donated to local charities;
· Sold to the public, farmers and amateur gardeners;
· Used to make mulch which is sold to local farmers, landscapers, home gardeners.
The most ultimate part of the food cycle is the end results – people. There is so much waste at events, in restaurants, at hotels that could go to feeding those in need. Waste Not is a program that M Culinary supports by collecting excess food from events. This is food that is never served or exposed to the public. Our team brings it back to the commissary and gets it ready for pick up.
Waste Not picks up food the next morning and in that same day distributes it to shelters, facilities, and charities feeding Arizonans contending with food insecurity.
Every pound of rescued food feeds at least 1.25 people and M Culinary has donated 48,000 pounds so far in 2023.
M Culinary is aware that food professionals that feed thousands of people as they do are at the most important intersection of agriculture and environment. For this company, when it comes to the future of our food and planet, playing in the dirt is very serious business these days.