Sunday, 30 August 2009

Part 2 Lantanalicious: The three good food questions

This is the second in a series of three posts in which we* try to share some of the information that has been gathered as a part of the research to establish Lantana.

In this post, Shelagh answers three questions regarding sourcing 'good' food for Lantana. The idea is that by asking three questions in a repeatable format we can ask others the same questions and so build up a set of answers that can be compared and contrasted. Hopefully this information will be of use to others attempting to set up independent food businesses.

1. What is your good food philosophy?

Shelagh pointed out that there are a number of very good reasons for embracing a 'good food' approach to running a cafe; for the customers, for your conscience, for the planet. But there are so many variables that, if you're going to consistently adhere to an approach, you actually need an underlying philosophy that can guide you through the myriad suppliers, environmental considerations and customer demands.

Shelagh's main concern is to provide food which tastes as delicious as it possibly can. For her this means sourcing food which is in season and, depending on the particular ingredient, free range, and organic. Her secondary concern is the general ethics surrounding the production and procurement of the food. This then demands decisions to be made. For example, should she use organic produce if that also means high food miles or should she prefer the local but non organic produce?

The end result is that Shelagh tends to favour local, fair trade, free range and high welfare produce and is less concerned with whether it is organic, or certified 'organic'. Having said that, for certain items such as milk, Shelagh insists on organic because she believes it tastes so much better than non-organic.

London Dairies doing the morning milk run with their electric van.
2. What has informed that philosophy?

Shelagh joined the London Food Link's Ethical Eats group and through them went to some talks, met like minded operators and actually met some primary producers including farmers, bakers and butchers.

Some of the members of the Ethical Eats group on a farm visit
In meeting these producers and suppliers Shelagh got to see exactly how they work, the quality of their produce and their methods of production. She also got an understanding of their business values and was then able to make decisions about using specific suppliers. For instance, she chose a butcher who sources meat from small farmers who practice traditional, high welfare farming methods. While the animals are organically fed and naturally reared, the meat is not always certified ‘organic’ as many small producers are not able to meet the high costs and standards involved in the organic certification process. Some of the compromises the farmers have to make may disqualify their meat from being labeled organic, however, it doesn't compromise the quality of the product as far as Shelagh is concerned.

3. Why do you follow that philosophy?

The aim of Lantana is to differentiate on quality. Shelagh believes that using local, seasonal, naturally reared and free range produce results in better tasting and more interesting food in that you have to be inventive, working with what ingredients are in season. Also, as a small independent business owner herself, she wants to support other small specialist businesses who share the same values, are passionate about their product and give a personalised service.

Next week we're going to take a look at some of the links that Shelagh recorded as apart of her research and that have been collected on the Lantana delicious bookmarks page.

*This post is written by Leo Ryan who works as a digital planner, helping businesses to optimise their use of social media technologies.

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