Interview with Real Food Daily’s Catering Director, Elisha Valdez

Posted on 26. Jan, 2010 by in Entrepreneurship, Interviews

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The Clean Energy Economy is emerging.  Jobs are being created across the spectrum and industries are going through fundamental shifts to adapt to an ever-changing world. Whether business strategies evolve out of necessity to government policy or wanting to both improve and incorporate the Triple Bottom Line, sustainability is creating jobs, expanding the market, and promoting economies of scale.

Opportunity Green strives to recognize leaders in sustainability and the green movement.  Whether you are Proctor&Gamble or Ecovative Design, the OG team recognizes green greatness through green living–the difference between those who “say” it and those who “do” it.  Furthermore, these companies and individuals create an impact bigger than their immediate size.  They collaborate with business leaders, companies, and customers that value sustainable operations, community development, and a clean energy economy.  Community-based and intrinsically tied between People, Planet, and Profit, sustainability is an emerging cultural ideology that requires innovation, integrity, and perseverance. One way to live green is to eat green.  Restaurant sustainability is on the rise, yet there are a limited number of leaders and pioneers in the Green Restaurant Industry.  As one of the most wasteful and rigid industries in the United States, the restaurant industry represents a major opportunity to find successful models, tools, ideas, and management systems for other industries and the wider Clean Energy Economy as a whole.  Opportunity Green took the time to look within their green community for a leader in this category and all signs pointed to Real Food Daily. Starting out as a catering company for Hollywood moguls and superstars in the 1980′s, Real Food Daily opened its first restaurant in 1993 in Santa Monica, California, under owner Ann Gentry.  Since then, it has emerged as the only restaurant in Los Angeles to serve a 100% vegan menu with foods grown solely from organic farming methods.  According to Elisha Valdez, Catering Director at RFD, “the goal [...] is to introduce the Real Food Daily menu to as wide an audience as possible. We want to  break the misconception that vegan food is bland, boring, and unappealing.” (If you don’t believe her, go try the nachos!) nachos (2)

In addition to their delicious food, RFD is both a leader and pioneer in the green restaurant industry and had centered their operations on sustainable design long before “organic” became the buzz-word du jour. According to Elisha, RFD has bought organic for 17 years and has been a “pioneer in the efforts to advance awareness of the organic food segment of the market.”  Did you know the carbon footprint of a non-meat eater is 1/7th the size of a meat eater, according to the U.N.I.P.C.C?  That is a snippet of information that Elisha and others at RFD incorporate into their ideology and they live it daily.  Furthermore, they influence the community by providing “people with a delicious opportunity to embrace a vegetarian diet–even it’s not everyday–[as] one of the best ways to support sustainable initiatives in the community”. Ultimately, RFD is about “the balance for both the environment and the body, [coming] from a Macrobiotic foundation [that] incorporate[s] the yin and yang of not only food, but life”.

Although RFD makes it look easy to both maintain and grow a sustainable restaurant industry, Elisha told us they still face daily challenges.  ”One of our biggest struggles is communicating to the full extent of our commitment to organic foods and sustainability.”  Indeed, one of the biggest struggles in the restaurant industry and sustainable operations is finding a way to transition the restaurant into green operations–a goal that starts at the fundamental operations and costs of the business.  ”We see a lot of companies say ‘organic whenever possible’, but what they mean is ‘organic unless it’s too expensive or difficult to procure”.  These words ring so true to Opportunity Green and other genuine companies in the clean green economy.

“The triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits, has always been at the core of what we do at RFD. Before there was even a term for it, we just felt that it was right for our business because it was the right thing to do.  For us, its not a triple bottom line–it’s one bottom line that is inextricably connected between those three elements.” As we move into the future, Opportunity Green hopes to observe green methods in the restaurant industry and the positive impact of sustainable systems on business scalability.

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