For GBA’s 2030 District Partner Meeting on August 16 (register here), we are teaming up with Chef Chris Galarza at Forward Dining Solutions to learn more about sustainable kitchens.
The transition to electric appliances in commercial kitchens has been a slow process due to the ease of cooking with gas appliances and the costs of electrification. The lack of education surrounding electrification also adds another barrier to reducing carbon dioxide emissions within commercial spaces. While many restaurants focus on how they can procure sustainable ingredients to cook with and reduce water use, it is also important to decrease a kitchen’s reliance on fossil fuels that are used in gas-powered appliances. Learn more about Chef Chris Galarza's motivation behind Forward Dining Solutions and what he has learned after many years in the culinary arts business below!
Can you tell us about Forward Dining Solutions and what inspired you to start the company?
Forward Dining Solutions was born out of necessity. Not for my career but rather for the building design industry as a whole. For a lot of cities, buildings are the biggest polluter and emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. With that in mind there has been a concerted movement to make buildings more sustainable and reduce their overall emissions. Naturally, kitchens have become a big point of contention and with that came a massive void that I wanted to fill. Sustainability and culinary arts are really important to me and so it was a no brainer to combine the two and share my lived experience as a chef who’s transitioned to an all-electric kitchen and help us create a more effective and efficient culinary ecosystem.
How does your passion for food overlap with your passion for sustainability?
They are truly one in the same as far as I’m concerned. Food and sustainability are all about a synergistic relationship we have between humans and the planet. Right now, that relationship is out of balance and because of that we are suffering the consequences of that imbalance. It’s my hope that through our work we can begin to correct that imbalance by creating kitchens that allow us to continue on a path of culinary excellence while also being good stewards to our planet.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in commercial kitchens becoming more sustainable?
This is a great question! Initially my answer would be chefs and hospitality professionals who want to maintain the status quo, but after thinking about it a bit more I’d say the biggest challenges facing our march forward towards progress is the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. That single phrase or mentality is, I think, the biggest problem facing our species today. We hold on to a bygone era of how things “were” but never take the time to examine our own beliefs and see if there are better ways of doing things. If you look at any industry today, you’ll see this in effect. Whether it be electric vehicles, renewable energy, or kitchen design.
Imagine where we would be if our ancestors thought the car was an unproven technology and we should focus on keeping the tradition of horses and wagons alive. Or if our ancestors decided that cooking with gas was too much of an unknown and that we should stick with coal. The truth is these were all revolutionary changes that we embraced over 100 years ago. Now it's time we realize that we are living with relics and our society/planet has outgrown them.
To bring this back to kitchens we are living in a time where chefs across the country realized that we work in dire conditions with low pay and an oppressive schedule. Industry leaders have figured out how to pay folks more and give the workers an opportunity to have a schedule conducive to having a life. The only hurdle left is to improve conditions, but they are hamstrung by using 20th century tech like gas appliances. No matter how hard you try you cannot exhaust out radiant heat. That’s where we come in. We understand the problems facing modern commercial kitchens and can offer 21st century solutions to our 21st century problems.
As an expert in electric commercial kitchens, what are some of your biggest lessons learned (or take-aways, or key recommendations) that you want to share with others?
First and foremost, electric kitchens aren’t scary! Electric kitchens are ones where we can cook and be comfortable doing so. It’s where we can nearly double our production without doubling our efforts. It’s where clean-up doesn’t include harsh dangerous chemicals and in fact takes less time to clean. The truth is an all-electric kitchen is a kitchen where we can meet the demand of our consumers without causing harm to ourselves or the planet. These kitchens operate cooler, more efficient and more importantly will increase your production while saving you money.
What is your favorite sustainable kitchen project that you have worked on and why?
I have to say my favorite project right now is and probably will always be Eden Hall [Check out this project- here]. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing chefs throughout my career including several master chefs and culinary Olympians but nothing in my career has given more back to me than Eden Hall. There I learned the lessons that would allow me to become an entrepreneur and to give back to an industry that has given me so much. There I got to re-connect with my passion for food and sustainability. I learned a lot about myself and more importantly learned a lot about the larger role I can play to help inspire others to be good stewards to our staff, our planet, and hopefully begin to rebalance our relationship with our planet.
About Chris Galarza:
Entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and podcaster Chef Chris Galarza is renowned for his work in kitchen electrification. Chef Chris Galarza is the Founder and Culinary Sustainability Consultant for Forward Dining Solutions LLC, the first and only firm dedicated exclusively to creating sustainable and efficient commercial kitchens. As the country’s foremost expert in commercial electric-kitchens chef works with clients to sustainably create kitchens that promote healthy, efficient, and equitable working conditions. Chef has worked on notable projects such as Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus (the world’s first fully self-sustained university campus), Microsoft Redmond, and Castilleja All-Girls School.
Chef worked for several prestigious establishments such as Carnegie Melon University, Monterey Bay of Pittsburgh, and The Greenbrier of WV where he apprenticed under several Certified Master Chefs and culinary Olympians. Chef leverages his experience as a culinarian, educator, and consultant to get projects moving forward and leaves operators educated and prepared to successfully, efficiently, and safely run their kitchen for years to come.
Blog Thumbnail via Forward Dining Solutions
Kitchen Photo via Daniel Nijland (Unsplash)