Celebrating sustainability may be an everyday occurrence at the SPE-certified Rouge Tomate Chelsea whose mission is to provide an extraordinary dining experience that supports the total well-being of the individual and the environment, but tomorrow, July 24, the Rouge Tomate Chelsea team will “RISE Up” to the challenge of a four-course dinner incorporating upcycled ingredients for a fundraising event hosted by food tech start-up, RISE, and food advocacy group, Change Food.
“Between RISE, which converts industrial by-products from different parts of the food supply chain and upcycles them into nutritious food products, like flour from brewers’ spent grain, and Rouge Tomate Chelsea, whose founder almost literally wrote the book on health and sustainability when he conceived the idea of SPE, this dinner will showcase all the brilliant – and delicious – work that can be accomplished while also doing good,” said Diane Hatz, founder and executive director of Change Food.
SPE, which stands for the Latin “Sanitas per Escam” and translates literally to “Health through Food,” was developed as a nutritional and culinary philosophy at Rouge Tomate Brussels in 2001 by the restaurant’s founder Emmanuel Verstraeten. It has since become a foodservice industry standard and certification program run by Verstraeten and aimed at encouraging other foodservice establishments to cook healthy, sustainably sourced dishes, retaining focus on the taste of the food. The program’s core principles include increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, as well as reducing intake of saturated fats, added sugars and salt.
In addition to flour from RISE, Baldor’s SparCs program and Gotham Greens “Ugly Greens” program are among other companies involved in the event. “RISE Up! Dine with Purpose” will feature a four-course dinner crafted from upcycled ingredients by Executive Chef Andy Bennett. (The event takes place 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 24 and is open to the public. Tickets may be purchased on Eventbrite.)
“We are super excited about collaborating on this dinner. It’s exposed us to new ingredients and made us look at creating a menu in a different way,” said Bennett, who has been with Rouge Tomate a cumulative six years. “The food system affects everybody in some way or another. Change Food’s work raising awareness and striving to fix it will have a lasting impact for us and the planet.”
Born in Great Britain, Bennett moved to New York in 2002 to work with chef Daniel Boulud and first joined the Rouge Tomate in 2008. After a brief stint in Washington, D.C., Bennett returned to Rouge Tomate in 2013 and became executive chef of its second location, Rouge Tomate Chelsea, in 2014. In addition to holding an SPE certification, he serves as a consultant on the SPE Certified team.
Chef Andy Bennett is also an avid cyclist with an interest in fitness and wellness and says he most enjoys being able to use fresh, local produce to create healthy food not only for himself but also for diners at Rouge Tomate Chelsea.
“I personally like clean flavors and enjoy working with produce so Rouge Tomate is a natural fit,” Bennett said. “The challenge with what we do here is trying to show that healthy food can be fun, delicious and creative. It’s about trying to break down the healthy food stereotype.
“I’m very lucky that I have a job where my values match that of the company,” he said. “I always say as chefs we are very lucky that our career is also our passion, our hobby, our key interest. At Rouge I feel like it’s that but one step further where I’m combining my two passions. Cycling is part of my whole interest in health and wellness in general so the two bounce back off each of other – cooking and eating for health and cooking and eating for fitness gains.”
All proceeds from “RISE Up! Dine with Purpose” benefit Change Food, which strives to create a healthy, equitable food system by developing programs, events and resources for those who are changing food from the ground up. Change Food proudly operates as a project of the Trust for Conservation Innovation, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization which accelerates impact for initiatives focused on protecting and fostering a healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable world.