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Bresca Is Now the Only ‘Carbon Neutral’ Fine Dining Restaurant in D.C.

Nonprofit Zero Food Print just added the year-old modern American restaurant to its choosy list

Cured ocean trout at Bresca.
Rey Lopez/Bresca
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Chef Ryan Ratino’s debut eatery Bresca can now say it’s got something in common with some of the top Michelin-starred eateries in the world, having just been added to a prestigious list of like-minded eateries committed to going green.

The freshly updated “carbon neutral” list of 18 restaurants is monitored by San Francisco, Calif.-based nonprofit Zero Food Print, founded in 2013 by chef Anthony Myint (The Perennial, Mission Chinese Food) to help brick-and-mortar dining destinations reduce their impact on the climate.

Zero Food Print, backed by the Trust for Conservation Innovation, estimates an average restaurant meal — which includes growing and cooking the food, bottling beverages, and operating the restaurant — generates between 10 and 15 kilograms of carbon dioxide (the equivalent of burning one gallon of gas). Globally, the food system accounts for about 30 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

The recognized restaurants on its list also includes the world famous (and recently revamped) Noma in Copenhagen, as well as a clump of high-profile Michelin restaurants in San Francisco (Atelier Crenn, Lord Stanley, and The Progress).

Ratino, whose 60-seat stylish restaurant was named Eater DC’s 2017 dining Sensation of the Year, has taken sustainability seriously since opening last fall — opting to implement an immediate “no plastic” mantra throughout the restaurant. Instead of going through thousands of plastic tasting spoons a week in the kitchen, for instance, he circulates through 400 stainless steel ones.

To quality for the list, its use of natural resources and trash pick-up procedures were closely examined. Proteins on its plates also plays a factor in the annual review; Bresca uses “off-cuts” of meat to further offset the carbon output per diner.

“If we were to put beef ribeye on the menu, our output would be higher,” he says, adding the difference between serving grass-fed or grain-fed animals also impacts the carbon footprint of a restaurant.

“We are just a small part of what needs to happen — everything we do has an effect on the planet and climate change,” he says.

Ratino says there’s room for improvement at Bresca when it comes to downsizing its use of butter, so he’s started to sub in animal fats during the cooking process.

“You don’t realize how much impact raising cows for milk and cream, then making butter, has on the environment,” he says.

Another positive impact of going carbon neutral — like not buying countless plastic spoons and sourcing less butter — is saving the restaurant money.

“We are not pioneering anything. At the end of the day, there are plenty of others out there trying to raise awareness,” he says.

Last year, expansion-minded chef Tim Ma participated in an inaugural campaign to stop wasting food at his Asian-French fusion restaurant Kyrisian through BlueCart’s Zero Waste Kitchen initiative. The Farmers Restaurant Group’s worked for years to create an environment that has a carbon footprint close to zero, and Le Pain Quotidien certified all of its U.S. restaurants carbon neutral in 2016 through climate advisory organization CO2logic.


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