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The Crumb for September 1st, 2017

Lori Bailey / September 1st 2017

Today's Crumb dropped next to an espresso tonic in Lexington, Kentucky.

TGIF, right? Pull up a comfy chair, throw back some food-waste vodka (optional), and settle into this past week’s food news.


In deep water

This past week, Tropical Storm-turned-Hurricane Harvey pounded southern Texas. The scale of the storm was historically unprecedented, and its effects have been nothing short of catastrophic. For the region’s restaurants, dealing with the quickly rising water and the lingering implications of flooding has proved difficult and grim work: evacuating trapped customers and employees, closing stores, and wondering if — or how — recovery could be possible in the aftermath. Yet there is a glimmer, even in these circumstances, of the sort of care and support that carries communities through hard times, and the food community is playing a huge part. Local outposts of Which Wich, Beef O’Brady’s and Urban Bricks Pizza fed victims and emergency responders. Even suppliers affected by the storm had the opportunity to make an impact; Houston-based Martin Preferred Foods was able to open its warehouse to serve meat and groceries to hotels and convention centers housing the displaced. On a national level, the Starbucks Foundation is facilitating donations to the American Red Cross, as well as provide aid to affected Starbucks partners.

HC’s two cents: Food is at the heart of community. So, when communities are hit hard, food businesses have a big role to play.

Eco-trendy

Move over, Millennial Pink, it’s time for the war against food waste. From top chefs to grocery stores to manufacturers and beyond, the topic of how to conserve food resources has become hot, hot, hot. But even if you’re the sort to scoff while the plebeians line up for unicorn lattes, consider the undeniable power of peer pressure to drive societal change. Denmark managed to reduce food waste across the entire country by a whopping 25% in only 5 years as a result of trendy Danes jumping on the eco-bandwagon. Some influencers, like British footballer-turned-entrepreneur Richard Eckersley, are channeling that power into business opportunities; he and his wife opened Earth.Food.Love, a zero-waste grocery promoting bulk foods and BYO-packaging. So pack those reusable bags and head on down to the ugly-food market — it’s what the cool kids are doing.

 

Now that’s some high-tech pizza

Look out, Ann Arbor, Michigan — Domino’s is comin’ atcha with driverless cars. They’ve teamed up with Ford Motor Company to turn an autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid into a lean, mean, pizza-delivering machine. Although this round is just a test (the car will actually be driven by an engineer), researchers are eager to find out how customers respond to the experience of interacting with a driverless vehicle. For the food world, this is another step towards increased automation in food service, a topic that elicits starry-eyed enthusiasm from some and anxious concern about the future of society from others. But here we are, in the year 2017, getting our pizzas from a Ford instead of a gangly teenager named Ford. What a time to be alive.

A restaurant critic’s wishlist

So many new restaurants, so little time. For those whose work involves staying on top of the most recent tidal wave of openings, the task can be daunting. And for some, like restaurant critic Pete Wells, it’s time to hit pause for a second, take the pulse of the industry, and suggest shifts that could lead to a healthier crop of restaurants. The big topic here, according to Wells, is diversity: increasing and expanding the opportunities available to a more diverse group of people. Not to mention the socio-culinary diversity offered by chefs and owners from different backgrounds and perspectives, epitomized in concepts like Bad Saint and The Grey. For the industry, this is a chance to change the tune of what a successful restaurant could look, feel, and taste like — and, if the movement towards mindfulness continues, customers will be ready to eat it up.


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