Boston Local Food Festival

Presented by Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts

606 Congress Greg Griffie on Local Food

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel Executive Chef, Greg Griffie, on Local and Sustainable Food

Greg Griffie

Restaurants in general, and hotel restaurants in particular, aren’t known for sourcing local food. So it’s admirable that Greg Griffie, executive chef at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, makes buying food locally a priority at the hotel. I had the pleasure of speaking with Griffie at 606 Congress, the hotel’s main restaurant. Its sleek interior contrasted with Griffie’s enthusiastic talk about food, sustainability, and supporting local farmers. After listening to his story, his interest in local food is understandable.

Griffie grew up in rural Pennsylvania and, from a young age, had an interest in food and becoming a chef. He spent his childhood “canning and pickling with [his] mother and grandmother” and took his first kitchen job at age 16. As an adult, he has maintained a connection to rural food production by buying shares in CSAs for his family, shopping at farmers’ markets, and keeping a vegetable garden at home with his 4- and 6-year-old daughters.

When talking to Griffie, it’s clear that he’s passionate about eating locally and more sustainably. He talks animatedly about a range of issues from protecting species of vegetables to supporting sustainable fishing methods. “I have all the Michael Pollan books,” he points out. But what really motivates Griffie to buy locally are practical, common sense reasons: “Getting to know the farmer, getting to know the product, and getting the money funneled to the local community.” He cares about supporting farmers and appreciates having face-to-face contact with the food producers. He also points out that sourcing locally “helps the cooks because they can actually cook, not just open boxes.” And he, himself, enjoys the creative cooking challenge of designing a menu around what a farmer happens to have available.

So, how did he start sourcing locally as the executive chef of the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel? Before working at the Renaissance, Griffie was a chef who sourced locally as a natural extension of his personal habit of buying from farmers’ markets and CSAs. When he started at the Renaissance hotel a few years ago, it was just starting out. As a result, he points out, “we got to do what we wanted to do” from the outset.

Because Griffie was new to the area, it took some work for him to develop a network of local food producers. He found the Chef’s Collaborative, an organization that supports chefs and farmers, to be very helpful. As Griffie puts it, “Chef’s Collaborative helped me fast-track everything.” Now, Griffie says he’s got a good network of local food sources, including Eva’s Garden, Allendale Farm , Sparrow Arc Farm , Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Bee Unto Others, Around the Bend Farm, and farmers’ markets.

Griffie’s latest challenge is sourcing more sustainably-fished seafood. “That’s been a lot of my new focus. I’ve got the network set up for the pork, beef, vegetables.” He points to organizations like Clean Fish and Monterey Bay Aquarium as resources that support sustainable fishing practices.

As executive chef, Griffie oversees the range of food services offered by the Renaissance, including 606 Congress, Capiz Bar, room service, catering, and the managing of the Starbucks. So it’s refreshing to see him focusing his efforts on making connections locally. Griffie admits he’s passionate about using local food, but says that what makes him able to continue to source locally is that “it’s a workable business model.” While we were sitting in the lounge of the restaurant, a couple of customers stopped on their way out to say to Griffie, “Thank you so much. That was really great.” Griffie looked pleased and a little bashful, “I swear I didn’t plan that.”
Blog Article By Alicyn Sconiers from The Sage Guide.

Alicyn Sconiers is a featured Blogger for Boston Local Food Festival.
606 Congress is a Restaurant vendor for Boston Local Food Festival.

Posted by: Nicola on June 29, 2010 @ 2:48 pm
Filed under: Blog,Chef Profile,News,Vendor Announcements