Photo courtesy of Jane Cavagnero.
Colorado. Good skiing. Good sun. Good fun. Good food.
Colorado is the good food capital of the country. Yes, food that tastes good for sure. Award winning chefs and restaurants abound in this great state. But Colorado has also shown its commitment time and time again to food that is good for every link in the food chain. That means the environment; plants and animals; farmers, ranchers, and fishermen; purveyors; restaurants; and eaters.
“Good Food is food that is produced with integrity and an eye toward the health of the land, animals and humans,” said Caroline Glover, chef/owner of Annette in Aurora, CO.
The Colorado culinary community knows that food is about more than just dollars on an invoice, spreadsheets, or P&Ls. Chefs care. They know their purchasing practices have the power to change lives. The power to change the lives of farmers, ranchers, fisherman, and purveyors here in Colorado and across the nation.
“Good food means knowing and caring about where your food comes from and how your choices in sourcing impact the environment, culture, guests, and end result on the plate,” said Alex Seidel, chef/proprietor of Fruition and Chook Charcoal Chicken in Denver, CO. In May of 2009, Seidel purchased a 10-acre farm just south of Denver in Larkspur, CO, with a vision of creating a learning center and a sustainable relationship between farm and restaurant. He was a leader in helping to teach the community and local restaurants the fundamentals of farming produce, animal agriculture, and the creation of artisanal products.
At the Denver-based Good Food 100 Restaurants™, we celebrate the people and businesses who are creating a more sustainable food system by analyzing and measuring their impact. Carefully curated based on the quantitative measurement of chefs’ purchasing practices, the annual list and industry impact report measures chefs and restaurants’ purchasing practices and spotlights the restaurants that are helping to build a better food system by positively supporting every link of the food chain.
The impetus for Good Food 100 Restaurants began in 2015, when I undertook a first-of-its-kind economic impact analysis with seven Denver-area restaurant owners to examine the impact of chef purchasing power on the local economy. The study found that those seven chefs alone were responsible for a combined $7.4 million economic impact in Colorado, just from the foods they purchased within the state.
As the Good Food 100 Restaurants launched nationally, Colorado continued to lead the way in good food. In 2019, the plurality of responses from the survey came from restaurants in Colorado (29%). Of the 137 respondents, a total of 341 individual restaurant locations were represented with 129 in Colorado.
Of the participating Colorado restaurants in the 2019 Good Food 100 Restaurants, their good food purchases totaled $14.7 million. That translates to an economic impact of $29.4 million on Colorado’s economy. The math is simple—every dollar spent on good food had double the economic impact.
Sustainability at the Source
Restaurant sustainability begins with sourcing. Good food restaurants wouldn’t be where they are without having access to good food. It’s that healthy supply chain that allows the good food movement to exist. Chefs owe a great deal to the farmers, ranchers, fishermen and fisherwomen, purveyors, and distributors who are dedicated to sustainability, transparency, and advancing good food. People like Clint Buckner of Boulder Lamb or the Croft Family Farm, each who have been honored as a “Good Food Farmer and Purveyor of the Year,” help keep good food moving forward. It is their foresight, their labor, and ultimately their ingredients that help determine and shape the plates of the Good Food 100 Restaurants.
What’s to Come?
Restaurants are the backbone of our country and community. The culinary industry accounts for 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product. As we hit incredibly challenging and unprecedented times in the country with the COVID-19 pandemic, the chefs and restaurants, producers and purveyors, and the entire food community are making incredibly difficult decisions that ultimately are for the greater good of our health and society. We know the impacts are going to be deep, and for many, even devastating.
According to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, the industry directly employs over 13 million people across the country and indirectly employs hundreds of millions of workers up and down the food supply and delivery chain. Growers, packers, fisherman, linen services, delivery people and more all depend on the continued revenue of restaurants to stay in business.
There is an opportunity that more people (including policymakers) will realize we’re all connected: no one link in the food chain can be healthy until every link in the food chain is healthy.
I’m confident that once we make it to the other side, Colorado will stand strong and continue its reign as the good food capital.
Sara Brito is co-founder and president of the Good Food Media Network, and publisher of the Good Food 100 Restaurants List. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.