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A Taste of Conservation

Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern

Jonathon Sawyer is chef-owner of The Greenhouse Tavern, located in Cleveland. One of Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs of 2010,” Chef Sawyer is committed to serving up local, sustainable foods in his restaurant, which was selected in 2010 as “One of the Top Ten Best New Restaurants in the U.S.” by Bon Appétit Magazine and is the first certified green restaurant in Ohio.

We sat down with Chef Sawyer to explore the intersection of food and the environment.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

Why is the environment important to you?

Jonathon Sawyer:

Having two kids who I’m handing the world over to has changed my sense of responsibility. The Greenhouse Tavern is just one address, one restaurant, but if we can do everything in our power as a restaurant to leave the earth in better shape than we found it, we’ve played an important part.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

How do our food choices impact the environment?

Jonathon Sawyer:

How food is raised and where it comes from is really important. Buying locally produced foods decreases our carbon footprint. And food that’s raised in a sustainable, organic way has less of a negative impact on soil and water quality. The chickens we use, for example, are not only raised at a nearby farm, but they’re also allowed to forage naturally, so they’re not in a barn eating grains. Instead, they’re consuming things like insect larvae, bugs and clover, which have been “prepped” by the organic pigs and cows that nourish the soil with manure. It’s a much more natural cycle that’s easier on the earth.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

What does sustainable eating mean to you?

Jonathon Sawyer:

This year The Greenhouse Tavern created its own “food pyramid” of sorts. The top tier is local and organic food sources. Second is organic sources. And third is local sources. We’re doing a pretty good job: Upwards of 90% of what we get is local or organic, or both.

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

When did you first encounter the idea of local/sustainable food?

Jonathon Sawyer:

Chefs Michael Symon and Charlie Palmer, who I worked with before opening The Greenhouse Tavern, were both interested in sourcing products locally. Their belief is, ‘the closer it is, the better it tastes.’

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

Why is it that local food is tastier?

Jonathon Sawyer:

It’s tastier because it’s fresher; it’s never going to be frozen and thawed. But it also has a lot to do with the fact that The Greenhouse Tavern is a good steward of flavor!

Jessica Keith, The Nature Conservancy:

Where’s your favorite natural area, where you go to get a break from work?

Jonathon Sawyer:

I love the Cleveland Metroparks—especially those places with conifers.

Jessica Keith

Conservation Writer for The Nature Conservancy

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