Eco chef buys local

By By Arthur Raymond

By Arthur Raymond

Though the weather leads us to believe that we are still in the throes of a brutally hot summer, for Jim Rowan a Saturday morning stroll through Salt Lake’s Downtown Farmers’ Market shows sure signs of a change of season — it’s harvest time!

This bounty is not just a harbinger of fall. It is also a call to local chefs, like Rowan of University Dining Services, that their menus can be highlighted with delicious local produce.

On any one of these Saturdays, Rowan might be spotted picking the choicest goods to haul back to the Union to become part of the dining selections that U students are offered every day.

“Thirty percent of our total produce purchases are now coming from local growers,” said Rowan, culinary director for Chartwells, the U’s contracted food provider.

These items vary, according to season, but currently students can find a sun-ripened tomato slice from Happy Valley, sweet cantaloupe from southern Utah or crisp yellow squash from a nearby farm as part of their daily dining fare in the Union.

Bread products, doughnuts and bagels are all sourced locally as well.

It would require less effort for Rowan to make a call to a food service company to bring him whatever produce he requires, but he believes the extra effort is worth it.

“More local, more organic and more planet sustainable practices is my goal,” Rowan said.

Utilizing local produce and baked goods is just one part of a bigger effort by Chartwells to engage in sustainable practices.

Jen Colby, the U’s sustainability coordinator, lauds Rowan’s efforts to connect with local growers and utilize their products.

“It’s important for people to realize the bigger impact of using local goods. Just think of the resources saved if a product doesn’t have to be shipped from somewhere like the West Coast,” Colby said.

Rowan said he is working on plans to include other local products on the menu at the Union. These include ice cream from Spotted Dog Creamery and coffee products from Rimini, both Salt Lake City-based companies.

In addition to an emphasis on buying locally, new recycling efforts are in the works. The Union has an independent waste contract, separate from most of the other campus buildings, but Rowan is working on placing two-bin containers that have trash and paper recycling slots. Cardboard waste is already being recycled via a compactor behind the building. Rowan noted that these programs coincide well with the new campus-wide recycling program.

“We’ve all been on the same road?headed for the same goals,” he said.

Rowan said he also hopes to instigate a composting effort and that he is ready to make reclaimed fryer oil available for any campus bio-diesel efforts.

Despite his weekly journey to Pioneer Park to personally choose the best of local produce for student dining and his close involvement with the other sustainability programs, Rowan downplays his individual presence in the bigger scheme of his company’s commitment to environment-friendlyfood service practices. He noted that without the support and encouragement of the corporate structure that he operates within, he couldn’t do what he does.

A newsletter from Compass Group, Chartwells’s parent company, states the commitment that Rowan embodies, “everything we’re doing?is about everyone, everyday, everywhere doing their part to help save our resources, communities and environment?and doing the right thing in our working lives.”

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