A jewel in the Swiss crown of fine dining, Chef Franck Giovannini heads the Hotel de Ville restaurant in Crissier, famed for its long standing 3 Michelin stars. Elegance, simplicity and respect for all produce and ingredients are the hallmarks of this world class establishment. Chef Giovannini is currently patron of EHL’s Culinary & Restaurant Management Certificate program (CREM) and shares patronage with Vitalie Taittinger of EHL’s MSc in Wine & Hospitality. Dr Achim Schmitt, Dean of EHL’s Graduate School, caught up with the renown chef to talk about best practices when it comes to sourcing local and sustainable restaurants.
Eco-friendly restaurants – How it all starts with the appropriate sourcing
One of the most important activities that determines a restaurant’s quality and excellence is sourcing. However, concerns over climate change and damaged ecosystems are growing in the minds of guests. In this sense, restaurant sustainability aims at minimizing the impact on the planet, specifically by addressing issues like
- sustainable farming,
- carbon footprint,
- shortening supply chain,
- food wastage,
- water and energy consumption,
- recycling, and more.
But, becoming a sustainable restaurant seems to be easier said than done when guests associate and expect particular ingredients (i.e. caviar, champagne, oysters) from particular regions. It seems like walking this tightrope can be achieved via the right philosophy and vision for a restaurant:
FG: “Restaurant sustainability has been practiced in our establishment for quite some time now. All starts with the design and creativity of the menu that aligns with the seasons throughout the year. This avoids having ingredients on the menu that are not following the local farming and production cycle.
With this in mind, our policy is simple: if it can’t be Swiss, then I only authorize myself to source it as locally as possible. So, I go to France for particular products and I get a few things from Italy, Germany and Austria. The few things come from far away are items like vanilla and certain spices, but this is infrequent. The bulk of the daily ingredients come from Switzerland.”
Local and seasonal products: the future of food sourcing
Via an emphasis on local sourcing first, fine dining restaurants ensure proximity, access and control to a small local ecosystem that fulfil the demands of quality and seasonality. These relationships are enriched via sourcing opportunities from far. However, similar values and ethical sourcing standards do apply when building sustainable supply relationships that cross borders:
FG: “Fish and seafood are sourced in France. It is important that these ingredients are wild, fished from lines not from trawler nets or big boats. Just small boats with fishermen. With any item that’s been farmed, we look for quality and tend to get it from small producers because usually they are the ones who do things respectfully, who pay attention, and so the result is of a higher quality. Small scale and greater care: both tend to go together. We are on the whole very careful about who we work with. In general we look for the best products possible, and the producers with the best quality usually achieve this by respectfully paying attention to what and how they grow. A food producer that does not work carefully cannot produce a great food item and won’t work with us.”
Sourcing wine, a question of proximity?
FG: “It’s the same process. Due to the volume of wine we serve, we use primarily Swiss which is easy for us to control since we know most of the wine growers. My team of sommeliers travel around visiting the vineyards and growers and seeing how they work. As with food ingredients, the best wines are made with care from the start. We give precedence the local wines and then, of course, we work with France and other main wine-producing countries because those wines are popular and the clientele expects them. But again, for me these are not products that we buy every day. They have to be sourced intelligently and with respect. We even have some American wines because our guests request them, but it’s in very little quantities. Most wines come from Europe.”
Restaurant sustainability practices, a market necessity
Applying these sustainability standards in food and wine is more than just a fad. Research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association shows that the majority of restaurant guests take sustainability practices into consideration when choosing where to eat. These sustainability preferences also go hand in hand with a higher willingness to pay. Hence, sustainability is a not only a nice extra but a necessity to position a restaurant in an increasingly conscious market for sustainability:
FG: “We hear a lot said about organic produce, but consumers are more attached to the idea of local above and beyond organic. If you offer an organic tomato from Peru or a local tomato from nearby Yverdon, they will choose the local one. It’s a no brainer.“
Becoming a sustainable restaurant is therefore more than a fad, it is a market necessity that needs to be engrained into the philosophy of every dish created within a fine-dining restaurant. When these sustainability practices embrace the DNA of a fine-dining restaurant, they become source of inspiration, creativity, and allow for a unique market positioning.
Students of the MSc in Wine & Hospitality will be in Lausanne this spring and have the privilege of lunch at Chef Giovannini's restaurant in Crissier on 17th March. As part of their program, they will have the opportunity to exchange a Q&A session with the famed chef, an example of how they learn from the top industry professionals about hospitality operations, leadership and management.