Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Sundown at Granada will discontinue the use of all foods containing GMOs
Your favorite dishes won't change, but the veggies on them will.
DALLAS It’s no secret that North Texans are beginning to take their food more seriously. Some find comfort in “organic” and “free-range” labels, but eating in restaurants offers fewer options than the grocery store.
Granted, the farm-to-table model is still somewhat of a budding concept in North Texas. Can careful eaters hold their restaurants to the same standard as their supermarkets?
According to Sundown at Granada Chef Patrick Stark, yes. That's why he is replacing every genetically modified ingredient on the restaurant’s menu with an organic, and often times local, alternative. His passion for the subject recently extended beyond the kitchen when he founded a group to raise awareness about the harmfulness of GMOs. Stark has deliberately coincided the turn of Sundown's menu with a worldwide protest against one of the industry's largest producers.
“Nowadays, it’s absolutely imperative to find out what you’re eating,” he said, explaining that many restaurants unfortunately choose "convenience over origin" when purchasing pantry items.
Genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, are plants or animals scientifically created through the splicing of genes. As the source of genetically modified foods, GMOs were originally embraced to prolong a food’s shelf life, increase resistance to pathogens, and add extra nutrients, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In recent years there has been a counter culture movement against GMOs, and advocates claim ingesting them has severe health consequences.
Patrons may not notice a difference in late May at Sundown, as the menu will not undergo any changes. But Stark is hell-bent on providing a place with “safe and healthy” options -- from the salt, sugar, and sodas, to the avocados, eggs and tomatoes Sundown serves. He is also enacting an “open ingredient policy” by publishing a book that sources all of Sundown’s food providers and making it available for customers to see at any time.
Sundown will be sourcing from local businesses including Urban Acres, Spiceman's FM 1410, Texas Honeybee Guild, Local Yokal, FreshPoint, and UnRefined Bakery. Since its opening in January 2012, the restaurant has received meat from Longhorn Beef and cheese from Brazos Valley Cheese, which will continue.
In the fall, Stark plans to slim down his menu to 20 of the most popular dishes and rotate about 10 seasonal items on a weekly basis.
Though the prospect of finding enough organic food to stock a Dallas restaurant seems like a big undertaking, Stark said it was relatively easy. He is working with United Natural Foods Inc., an international distributor of natural and whole foods, as well as the Fresh Food Alliance, which aims to provide sustainable local food to lower income families in South Dallas, to find quality ingredients at a good price.
The shift to no-GMOs will not increase the price of food at Sundown, he said.
“What I’m doing now is showing other restaurants you can do this and keep costs low,” Stark said.
Stark was inspired to nix GMOs out of his lifestyle two years ago when his nephews were born. The more he researched the subject, Stark realized what he considers long-term health risks of eating “unnatural” food. His concern about GMOs turned into full-blown intolerance after Congress and the president passed what advocates are calling the Monsanto Protection Act in March, which, in short, grants GMO crops and seeds immunity from regulation or being challenged in a court of law. (Notably, this was just one provision in a more than 200-page document passed to prevent a government shut down.)
Stark decided he could not ethically feed his consumer base GMO products.
In addition to revamping Sundown’s menu, he founded the Mohawk Militia six months ago to raise awareness about GMOs as well as food industry practices. (Stark has a black and red mohawk.) He is coinciding the transformation of Sundown’s policies with the worldwide March Against Monsanto on May 25, during which groups in 178 American cities and 35 different countries will protest the company and its practices.
“Why we march is just to bring awareness to it, and tell people, ‘Hey, 80 percent of food in stores is now genetically engineered,’” said Jessica Winters, one of the organizers for the Dallas march. “Once you hear, you can’t ignore [the issue].”
Dallas’ March Against Monsanto will begin at City Hall at 1 p.m. on May 25, then continue north to the Farmers Market and back. Stark plans to march in a Grim Reaper costume and hand out ears of corn for a humorous and somewhat macabre effect. By eliminating GMO products from Sundown, he hopes to perpetuate the same message as the march and educate patrons about the subject.
“Everyone else in the world has banned Monsanto and it’s in our backyard,” Stark said of the St. Louis, Mo.-based company. “If we don’t stand up and do something now, it will be completely too late.”
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