The coveted Michelin star winners of 2014 have been revealed, and among the recipients is a particularly green restaurant. Only in its first year of service, owner and self-taught Chef of Elizabeth, Iliana Regan uses a particularly sustainable and unique concept that she refers to “gather cuisine”. Here’s an inside look into her forest-to-table approach, from Iliana herself:
1. What is your company’s green angle?
“Green thinking is at the core of our business model. Our ticketing system allows us to predict exactly how much food to make, thereby eliminating waste. We are conservative with energy, and conduct business with very little paper, although our guests do get menus to take home as a memento from their dining experience. I grow some of our ingredients in my garden. We source most of our ingredients locally. Items that are brought in from other regions are heirloom and organic. Next year we will hopefully be doing some rooftop gardening. We reuse and recycle what we can. Several of our staff bike or walk to work. I could go on and on! ”
2. Where did you learn, and how did you develop your unique techniques and style for your new gatherer cuisine?
“Well, I am inspired by nature and the world around me, the changing seasons, the Midwest region. My cooking is informed by that, and by a life of cooking, foraging and gathering for meals with friends and family. I refined my style by doing my homework: lots of reading, studying the techniques of leading chefs, and staging with restaurants that I wanted to learn from. It’s a process and style that is ever changing and evolving.”
3. How long have you been cooking?
“Well, I have been in the kitchen as long as I can remember, cooking with my family. I grew up on a farm in Indiana, and we were always making homemade meals and preserves, hunting for mushrooms and then cooking them up. My family has owned restaurants for generations. So, I guess cooking has always been a part of my life!”
4. Where do you forage for and obtain the food you work with?
“I gather some of the ingredients for our menus from the woods, a place I love to be. I forage sustain-ably on private, protected lands that are owned by family and friends back in Northwest Indiana. Foraging sustainability means not taking everything and leaving at least 20% behind for the habitat and ecosystem. It also means being careful not to leave a footprint. I also have a network of vendor foragers who trek the Midwest in search of amazing, sustain-ably sourced edibles of the highest quality. I choose foragers who are gentle with the earth. Having a strong foraging network is important, now that I am in the restaurant so much of the time. I also grow some of my own ingredients.”
5. What tips or advice would you give to others, especially those who live in the city, who are interested in cooking and eating more locally, organically, and sustain-ably?
“Well, first off, I would suggest gardening at home or in the community. A lot can be grown in a small space. Take my home garden, for instance. I am able to grow beets, radishes, kale, chard, edible flowers, lettuces, micro greens, sprouts and more in a small space. I would also suggest shopping at local farmers markets, joining a CSA, giving small eco-friendly grocers and even larger eco-conscious grocers business. Shopping in this way sends a signal about what we value, while also supporting those values. Also, the ingredients are beautiful and become the inspiration.”
Please visit the restaurant website here: https://www.elizabeth-restaurant.com/