Chocolate: A Key Ingredient for Sustainable Gastronomy Day

Author Laura Ann Sweitzer

TCHO Source Director
Photo by Watershed at the Owl

Since 2016, the United Nations have invited the international community to celebrate “Sustainable Gastronomy Day”, recognizing the importance of our food choices to fight climate change and inspiring people around the world to support sustainable food production, adopt healthy diets, and avoid food waste. Restaurant chefs are key actors in promoting sustainable food systems for healthy and culturally diversified diets. TCHO’s mission is to bring better chocolate to the world – better for the planet, better for growers, better for consumers. The TCHO Source program partners with cocoa farmers, farmer owned cooperatives, and cocoa research institutions and leverages long-term sourcing relationships, price premiums for Organic and Fair Trade practices, and price premiums for quality (additional money to cocoa farmers specifically for the flavor of their beans) to improve equity in the cocoa supply chains. This means that TCHO is a natural chocolate source for chefs who are pushing the boundaries of sustainable gastronomy.

To celebrate this day, we sat down with David Rodriguez, Executive Pastry Chef at Watershed at the Owl, a California-based restaurant, to learn more about their brand, vision, and communicating this ethos to their customers.

David, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you introduce yourself and your restaurant?

Watershed at the Owl is located in an old mining town–Grass Valley, CA. We focus on using only sustainable and/or local ingredients. For example, all beef for the restaurant comes from within a 20-mile radius. We use a specific breed of steer and our Chefs use the ENTIRE animal. We make soap out of the beef fat, use the bones for stock and gelatin. We use the beef tongue and innards—everything. For produce, we also work with local farms and source as local as possible.

Tell us about your role at the restaurant and how pastry fits into the local focus.

I’m the Executive Pastry Chef at Watershed at the Owl. We do everything for our dessert menu in house. We bake bread from scratch and make ice cream from scratch. We use some local flours.

Do you find Watershed at the Owl restaurant goers are curious about the sustainability and intentionality of your supply chain?

Yes! Initially it was a little tough, as it was a huge change from what the community was used to. But once they learn this supports the community and neighboring towns and jobs, people are very supportive.

What’s next for Watershed at the Owl?

We are going to focus on staying small and fine tuning. For example, we are located between Tahoe and Sacramento, California and there isn’t much demand in our town for sustainable chickens and eggs. We are working on getting a group of people together in our community to pool our demand and source local sustainable eggs and poultry.

Watershed at the Owl, a Californian restaurant, selects sustainable ingredients for their menu
Photo by TCHO

Finally, TCHO is very proud to be a part of your local and sustainable supply chain. What are some of the desserts you use TCHO Chocolate for at Watershed at the Owl?

We use TCHO in our Milk Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut cookie butter, salted caramel, crème fraiche with cocoa crumbs. We use the TCHO 39% milk chocolate for the chocolate mousse (I love the caramel notes), plus TCHO Natural Cocoa Powder for the Cocoa Crumb to balance out the sweetness of the mousse and house made cookie butter (spreadable Sable cookie made with hazelnut flour). We also incorporate TCHO chocolate in petit fours and mignardises.

Watershed at the Owl's 'Milk Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut cookie butter, salted caramel, crème fraiche with cocoa crumbs' dessert is made with chocolate made in California