Posted on | February 20, 2014
Written by | Gloria Dawson
At Union Square Hospitality Group, sustainability works on multiple levels.
The chickens have Daniel Soloway, the purchasing operations manager at Union Square Hospitality Group, to thank for this. Soloway wanted to find a way to use the pulp left over after making juice at the restaurant group’s Creative Juice cafés, located at Equinoxes throughout New York City and Connecticut. He approached the farmers who supplied the group’s chickens about using the pulp as feed, and a “true partnership” was born, Soloway says.
This partnership ensures that Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) knows what their chickens are being fed and “closes the loop,” as Soloway puts it. Local and sustainable are a “part of everyday life for us,” adds Soloway, who works with all of the USHG establishments, including Maialino, The Modern, Gramercy Tavern, North End Grill, Union Square Cafe and Blue Smoke restaurants.
Many of the restaurants’ menus are chef-driven, meaning Floyd Cardoz, the executive chef at the North End Grill, might call on Soloway to help him find the perfect pork. Or Michael Anthony, executive chef and managing partner at Gramercy Tavern, might be looking for a specialty vegetable he’s not finding in the Union Square Greenmarket.
Deepening Pursuit of Green
Danny Meyer, the chief executive officer and founder of the group, has been shopping at the Greenmarket since he opened Union Square Café in 1985. Soloway takes sustainable sourcing to the next level. He might take a road trip to a tri-state farm that’s too small or new to sell at the market. “These farms are not coming to you,” he notes.
“It’s akin to being friends with the kids in your neighborhood when you were a child,” Soloway explains. “If you could drive at five you may not have been friends with the kid across the street.”
Although local is important, sustaining and promoting small producers that are making fantastic products anywhere in the world is an aspect of Soloway’s job as well. On a recent trip to Italy, he met artisanal salami, balsamic vinegar, and grappa producers. The grappa made quite an impression. He discovered one Italian family that has been producing grappa for 500 years but had never exported to the United States, until now. Their grappa will appear on some USHG menus soon.
While other restaurant groups might try consolidating and purchasing from the same producers across various restaurants, each of USHG restaurants has many of their own vendors. Each chef may prefer a different producer for beef or even beets. And that’s fine by Soloway. “When you go to the Modern you have access to a totally different basket of goods on the menu than when you go to Gramercy Tavern. Otherwise we would just have a replication,” he says. “Each of the restaurants are unique, and one of the things that makes them unique is what they have sourced and chosen to put on the menu.”
Soloway’s duties don’t end at the kitchen door, either. Finding unique linens, silver, and china all fall under his job description. His job may even include sourcing seeds for farmers to plant. Wherever the job takes him, he’s careful not to call his sustainable style of sourcing a trend or a fad because “that would mean it’s going away.”