Home Uncategorized Xanterra Chefs Practice What They Preach at America’s Summit

Xanterra Chefs Practice What They Preach at America’s Summit

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DENVER—At an exclusive gathering of national park leaders last month, Xanterra Parks & Resorts executive chefs Peter Pahk and Joe Nobile prepared a special menu featuring sustainable cuisine. Well-suited to the tone of the two-day meeting—a response to the National Park Service’s (NPS) Call to Action report focusing on establishing a mission for the NPS 2016 centennial and beyond—the printed menu included a brief history on the subject of tatanka, the Lakota word for bison.

The background on bison was especially fitting because one of the main course choices was Braised Bison Short Ribs. The bison was sourced from the Western Buffalo Company of South Dakota, the same company that supplies bison to the restaurants in Yellowstone National Park.

The American bison is a recognized symbol of the conservation movement because it is one of the first animals that prompted Americans to intervene on behalf of a species on the verge of extinction. Bison—once numbering 60 million throughout the West—were near extinction because of over-hunting for food and sport. With only a couple of dozen bison left within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, the U.S. Army began to protect and manage the herd. NPS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service engaged in an intensive effort at the Buffalo Ranch inside Yellowstone’s famed Lamar Valley. More than 100 years after the bison’s near-extinction, those initial wildlife preservation efforts have paid off in the most dramatic fashion. The healthy American bison herd in Yellowstone now numbers between 2,300 and 4,500. In addition, there are some 400,000 bison raised as livestock, which supply the fast-growing segment of consumers demanding sustainably produced food.

‘Counterintuitive’ Approach Explained

While on the surface it may seem counterintuitive to rescue a species from extinction and then raise the same animals for human consumption, it’s really not, according to Pahk.

“The bison story is a terrific illustration of the multi-pronged benefits of sustainable food,” he said. “As more people— and restaurants—seek flavorful meats raised without growth hormones and antibiotics, more ranchers work to become proficient in supplying that product. Sustainably produced food is a win for the consumer, the supplier and the environment.”

Other sustainable ingredients in items on Chefs Pahk’s and Nobile’s dinner menu included an appetizer of Marine Stewardship Council-certified wild Alaska smoked salmon, lamb from a farm located just 35 miles from Yellowstone’s northern entrance and lentils from a USDA-certified organic farm in Montana.

Xanterra has long been an innovative and enthusiastic proponent of sustainable menu items. More than a decade ago, the company committed to serving only sustainable seafood in its restaurants, and it also banned species that were threatened by over-fishing or harvested in ways that damage the environment. Since then, offerings have grown substantially including the additions of Oregon Country Natural Beef; Kurobuta Pork; Montana Ranch Natural Lamb; Kobe-style beef; Amaltheia Dairy goat cheese; Timeless Farm legumes; organic Fair Trade-certified Coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; local dairy; wines produced using sustainable practices; organic soy milk; farm-raised trout, shrimp and abalone; organic legumes; locally grown produce and hormone- and antibiotic-free elk, bison, chicken and venison.

More Examples of Sustainability

Other initiatives include incorporating sustainable design features into restaurant renovations and new construction as well as developing programs to substantially reduce kitchen waste. Other examples of Xanterra’s sustainable food programs include:

•    Becoming the first U.S. hospitality company to be granted the “Chain of Custody” certification from the Marine Stewardship Council guaranteeing all of Xanterra’s wild Alaska salmon menu items can be traced to their source, assuring consumers that the salmon is from a sustainable fishery.
•    Implementing a Foodservice Energy Awareness Program that teaches all foodservice employees to participate in energy conservation in a variety of ways.
•    Developing a Green Procurement program to ensure all paper products and chemicals used in the company’s foodservice operations are environmentally sound.
•    Developing on-site food waste composting programs in three locations.

Peter Pahk is executive chef at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., and Joe Nobile is executive chef in Yellowstone National Park. A first-of-its-kind event, the Summit was established in coordination with NPS through a partnership of the National Park Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association and National Park Hospitality Association.

For complete information about Xanterra’s environmental programs, click here.

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