Sandwiching in sustainability: Sloco chef Jeremy Barlow's daring venture
Sandwiches—"sammies," actually—may seem like slender means toward saving the earth. Not to Nashville Chef Jeremy Barlow, who seems fond of daring himself to take on challenges that matter.
Sloco, his sandwich shop, promises "Local. Organic. Quick." Chef Jeremy dares to compete with fast food on convenience and cost while serving up the finest, made-from-scratch ingredients on homemade bread (gluten-free options available.) According to its website, Sloco serves "sustainably sourced food at affordable prices - prices that are in line with shops across the city and country, while using nose-to-tail cookery, making everything in-house, utilizing the most sustainable product available and prepared in the same amount of time it takes at any quick service joint." That's a tall challenge, and Sloco is delivering. Literally. Using bicycles.
While the handmade sandwiches at Sloco speak for themselves, Chef Jeremy also makes his case in print in his recent book, Chefs Can Save the World:
"Accessing sustainable products, for those who care to, is very difficult for most of the population for myriad reasons. I think the best solution is found in the cooks and the chefs of our communities. With the number of dollars they control, they have the ability to insist these corporations do more than add organic options. They have the buying power to change the way food is grown in order to meet their demands. One fact is certain, corporations will change to meet demand. As evidenced by the mechanization of the industrial food system that was brought about largely by corporations and the fast food industry, chefs can reverse the trend and force corporation to go back (and push forward) to a successful system that includes sustainable food and methods. A sustainable food system will be enough to alter the path of all the systems. Chefs can change the world [emphasis in original.]"
About nine years ago, Chef Jeremy Barlow launched Tayst, a fine dining restaurant that accelerated Nashville's status as a food capital. He closed Tayst on December 31, 2012, citing a need for time and energy to be with his growing family. At Savoring Kentucky we fret about the unreasonable expectations we eaters place on chefs. From the outside, it looks as though Chef Jeremy's personal choice to close Tayst and concentrate on Sloco fits with a fundamental commitment to sustainability, moving him away from time and energy demands that cannot be upheld permanently—although nine years is quite a long run.
One benefit of closing Tayst to concentrate on Sloco? More flexibility for Chef Jeremy to pursue advocacy. And so it happened that Chef Jeremy Barlow traveled to Louisville to take part in Seed Capital Kentucky's event, Around the Table: A Plan for Louisville's Local Food Economy, where participants learned about a recent study that discovered a remarkably high degree of interest in local food: 72 percent of the 400+ participants reported they already buy local food. The participants reflected all income levels and zip codes in Louisville-Jefferson County. Commercial food buyers, interviewed for the study, share the enthusiasm for local food. If commercial and individual buyers could buy as they wish from local sources, their combined purchases could amount to $800 billion in annual sales of local food. That statistic is eye-popping, heart-warming, and totally tasty. Or Tayst-y.