How often do you find yourself in a restaurant with a menu that reads, “We serve organic produce when possible”? And how much stock should you put into vague phrases like, “All our ingredients are sustainable”?
You'd be right to be suspicious: Some chefs are faking it as the demand for organic rises. And many savvy eaters can sniff out the real deal. (Does the chef name-check source farms on the menu? Can they be seen making pickups at the local farmers market?) Still, none of these guessing games really guarantee the origin of every ingredient. And in truth, unless the restaurant in question is certified organic, there is no real way to know.
As a chef who's committed to organics (I grew up on a certified organic farm), and as a customer myself, I've been frustrated by the greenwashing I've observed. There are literally thousands of restaurants around the country using the word “organic” in their name and/or marketing materials -- and indeed, most probably do source at least some organic foods. But just how much, or how often, is unknown to everyone outside their kitchens.