More chefs are getting actively involved in issues facing the industry – from supporting small farms and reducing food waste to raising wages and giving back to the communities that support them.
We sat down with Harvest Summit advisory board member Chef Dustin Valette of Valette restaurant to get his take given he’s expanding his mark on the culinary scene in Northern California with the creation of The Matheson and Roof 106.
What led you to expand?
Our new location, The Matheson, was created as a place for our community and visitors alike to come together and share in the amazing place we call Healdsburg! The building was the location of my great grandfathers first bakery when he came to Sonoma County from France. It has been sold many times over, though when we heard the building was going to be torn down and made into a condominium we felt we had to do what we could, and well, the rest is history! The Matheson restaurant will create a canvas for local farmers, winemakers and artisans to showcase their craft for all to enjoy.
What issues did you face when seeking approval of The Matheson and Roof 106 on the Healdsburg Plaza?
Healdsburg is an amazing place and the community here is the best part! When we were going through the approval process there was initially some resistance though most of that is because everyone assumed we where going to follow in the footsteps of the original plan and tear down the historic building and make it into condominiums. Once our community understood our intentions of preservation and fortifying it for years to come we had the. Community behind us! *We had over 700 letters of support sent in from our community showing their support before our public hearing!
Is there a Chef or other industry leader you admire for their stand on issues?
Wow, that impossible to say just one! I feel that with chefs out there like Jose Andres leading the charge for supporting their communities (and well beyond) he would be a great example of how chefs can impact society. Though I would personally have way too many to list here…
What social issues are you passionate about solving?
Food! I grew up in a European style family, we would all eat dinner and solve the days issues together. Both my parents worked full time and demanding jobs (my dad is still to this day an active aerial firefighter at age 78) and they would always make time to have everyone sit together and share a meal. It was around the table that we solved our family issues, it really made us a cohesive family. In todays reality it’s hard to do that and too often we see people eating on the go, not having the time to sit and work together, to be a family. We in essence are pack animals and I feel that we are missing this in our lives. I would love to see us change that is some way, and honestly with the current trend of restaurant delivery services, pre-prepared meals at the likes of Whole Foods I think that trend is beginning.
How is the dining experience evolving in today’s market?
10 years ago the trend was farm to table, which was a great movement! Today we are seeing a bigger push on sustainability and less chemicals additives, which I’m fully behind! I’m the biggest believer that processed foods and ingesting toxics chemicals are the worst thing for us. With this current trend of Organic and even better sustainable it gives me hope that we will be able to begin reducing the amount of additives which are causing horrible ripple effects. The more people who purchase heirloom tomatoes from their local farms markets the less we have to ship chemically treated tomatoes from South America that are modified and manipulated to appease the American market. This trend is one of the most promising for reducing greenhouse gasses and slow the current trend of destroying our planet, in my opinion.
Where do you think Sonoma County culinary leaders like yourself are leading and where is there room for innovation?
We are the leaders in the world, well, we have been at least… 30 years ago it was all about the French and their big heavy cream sauces, then it was Asian Fusion, now we are starting to see restaurants all over the Bay Area starting leading the trend of local, sustainable cuisines that are based of a heirloom varieties, locally produced, unprocessed foods. Shoot, most Bay Area top restaurants now have a garden or their own personal gardeners they use exclusively. I think this is the future, reduced carbon footprints, sustainable, full utilization of the product and honestly, the Bay Area has the intellect, technology and resources to be leading that charge.