5@5 - Foodservice industry buzzwords that need some explaining
January 29th, 2013
05:00 PM ET
Share this on:

5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Confused about what terms like "local," "green" and "sustainable" mean? You're not the only one trying to weed through it.

Luckily for us, Nate Appleman has an answer or five. He's the Culinary Manager of Chipotle Mexican Grill, a 2009 James Beard Rising Star Chef and a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef and he's here to clear things up.

"There are a lot of great things happening in food right now as it relates to local and more sustainable. And a lot of food companies that would like for you to think they are part of that," Appleman said.

"When dealing with vague words like 'local' or 'fresh' or 'natural' that have no standard definition, it's important for people to understand what claims are being made, as there are many who try to benefit from using them."

Five Food Words and What They Really Mean - Or Don't: Nate Appleman

1. Local
"Local food is great for a couple of reasons. Food that is raised or produced locally is often fresher and better tasting as it arrives in restaurants or markets very shortly after it is produced, spending less time in transit. For example, most produce in the United States travels some 1,500 miles from where it is grown to where it is served, and that takes time.

But local food also creates and supports opportunities for farmers and food artisans, and that is also important. Buying from local, sustainably minded farmers and food artisans helps contribute to their growth and encourages the next generation of those who will have a respect for the way food is grown, prepared and ultimately consumed."

2. Green
"When I think of green, I think of greenwashing. Apart from describing fresh veggies, green has no real meaning as it relates to food and often seems to be used in an effort to convey some sense of sustainability or environmental responsibility, whether that's real or not."

3. Sustainable
"I think of sustainable food as food that is raised in indigenous areas and in traditional ways — ways that match natural patterns and systems. Truly sustainable food is hard to do at scale and in a place where we expect the same variety and abundance of food year round and regardless of location.

When looking to purchase sustainable ingredients, look for key terms such as 'naturally raised' and 'hormone free' when selecting meats, 'local' and 'organic' when selecting produce, and 'pasture-raised' when selecting dairy products."

4. Natural
"Natural is another nebulous term. According to the USDA, food is natural if it doesn't contain artificial ingredients or added color and is 'minimally processed.' It doesn't say anything about how the food was raised. When you see words like 'natural,' it's important to understand what that means to the people using the word, as its standard definition doesn't really tell you very much.

Look for products that use the word 'natural' to describe a specific practice - such as naturally raised meats, which come from animals that are raised in a humane way and without the use of antibiotics or added hormones."

5. Fresh
"I think of fresh food as having never been frozen or processed. Fresh is a great place to start, but to really eat the best tasting food you can, fresh isn't enough. You need to understand how animals have been raised and how produce has been grown, as those variables really impact on the quality and taste of the food."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.


Posted by:
Filed under: 5@5 • Clarified • Environment • Sustainability • Think

Next entry »
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. LouiseThompson

    Here are some more buzzwords that describe what different chefs do:

    Friturier: The fry cook. Think "papas fritas"
    Poissonnier – Don't worry, not the person who poisons your food! It's the fish chef
    Saucier – The sauce chef! Isn't this fun?

    (source: http://www.jobs.net/Article/CB-100-Talent-Network-Restaurant-10-Cooking-Stations-for-Top-Chefs/)

    Now you can sound like you know your way around a professional kitchen!

    August 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  2. dailygrindonline

    Yeah, those weasel words are used and misused all the time in advertising and packaging, and it probably results in billions of dollars in additional sales. The power of suggestion! A healthy dose of skepticism is always advisable when evaluating product claims, marketing messages, and other miscellaneous rumor and innuendo.

    February 6, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  3. mario_batallie(just kidding,it's gordon_fisherman)

    THos tattoos are DISGUSTING!!! He should burn-them off.

    January 31, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  4. Jorge

    Words like local, fresh and farm-raised mean nothing to me if they are written on a piece of American commercial marketing propaganda. They did, however, mean a lot to me when my grandmother gave me a grocery list, a ten-dollar bill and marching orders for the colmado, mercado or pescaderia when I was a boy in the Caribbean. Boy, I wish I could find food like that today...

    January 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  5. JGN

    What exactly do you think a tattoo would DO to your food? Tattoos are ink under the skin, not on the surface, and in no way effect a person's cleanliness. You don't have to crave to cover yourself with them, but your reaction is odd and over the top.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  6. Ladle That Stirs

    Eww.. Gross. Tattoos on my server? Never. Gross. Disgusting.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Archibald

      He's a chef, not a server. Secondly, what possible difference would that make?

      January 30, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Fish on!

        January 30, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • edr

        Yeah, I recognize him. Chef Nate Appleman. He's such a great chef. It goes to show you don't judge a book by its cover. Unlike that "Ladle"

        January 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
Next entry »
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,975 other followers