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I recently met up with chef Daniel Snukal from the restaurant 3 on Fourth in Santa Monica for a short chat on sustainability. The next time I looked at my watch, it was an hour-and-a-half later. The reason: Snukal's fascinating (and sometimes contrarian) take on the subject. My crib notes:
On locavorism: "Locavorism is an old-fashioned idea and doesn’t work for the way we live now. You can’t look at things as absolutes. I really get the idea of locavorism, but it’s really impractical. For a farm to deliver to 80 restaurants in Los Angeles is a lot of work and fuel and driving if they don’t have a central distribution area. With the way infrastructure is in some places, delivering produce locally might use more fuel overall than having items shipped via FedEx, since the FedEx plane would be carrying a lot of other items as well."
On seafood: Snukal is working with a farm in Trang, Thailand, to exclusively import naturally farmed (meaning no antibiotics or hormones) soft-shell crabs from a river sanctuary that’s protected by the government. He serves the crab at his restaurant and is selling it to other restaurants in California, including Sushi Roku. Snukal also likes ecologically farmed Loch Duart salmon from Cleanfish.
On beef: "Most grass-fed beef in the U.S. is just finished with grass for the cattle's last 60 days," says Snukal. Instead of domestic beef, he buys Uruguayan Estancia Beef, raised entirely on grass. (The company claims that the amount of fuel used to transport their beef to the U.S. is far less than the amount required to fatten the average U.S. feedlot steer.)
On chicken: Snukal likes a number of different chickens for braising, specifically Niman Ranch’s Poulet Rouge Fermiere, a French heritage variety, for its "tighter" meat. While Niman Ranch is currently only selling the chicken wholesale, expect it to hit stores within the next couple of months.