Miami Eats Its Way to a Healthier Planet

From locally-sourced produce to zero-waste initiatives, restaurants and farms around Miami are expanding the city’s lexicon on sustainable dining.

Adopting “green” practices at all levels of the culinary ecosystem, these eateries and the farms they source from have one common denominator: an awe-inspiring commitment to the environment coupled with a passion for evolving the dialogue around sustainability, encouraging Miamians to shift their mindset around how they eat and make good with their local veggie peddlers. 

 

In a unique position as both a cause and a solution to global warming, food and the culture we create around it is in large part the answer to our health and the environment’s, a paradox the culinary industry is taking to heart by reducing their carbon footprint, eschewing plastic, opting for renewable sources of energy and composting their food waste, among other planet-friendly tricks. 

 

These five spots imbue profit with principle and embody today’s swift departure from factory farming.

Toscana Divino Hospitality Group

An acclaimed Italian eatery with environmental rescue at its core

A true trailblazer when it comes to sustainability in the restaurant realm, the team behind Italian mainstay Toscana Divino is as ecologically minded as they come. Leading an abundance of green initiatives, founder and Italian-born restaurateur Tommaso Morelato is on a serious mission to not only consciously and proactively provide a lifeline to local agriculture, but to reconnect people to their very own food and how they experience it. With steep efforts across all levels of production, from procuring their food locally and using eco-friendly containers to ensuring no leftovers and no environmental damage, Toscana Divino Hospitality Group is paving the way for a new era of integrity in the culinary industry.  

“In every Italian city, in the central downtown market, the farmers from the countryside bring daily produce, meat and fish: eating fresh and seasonal is the basis of our culinary tradition. We basically want to do the same thing here, focusing on quality ingredients, and delivering the best directly to the houses of our clientele.”

Tommaso Morelato

Apparent in every detail, Toscana Divino’s farm-to-table ethos has echoed in the restaurant’s actions for nearly a decade, but with COVID-19 came a new hunger for even greater change. 

 

“This now transcends local, it transcends national. We’re now irrevocably aware of our connectedness on a global scale,” says Morelato, who’s hard at work reviving a circular economy where growth is redefined to focus on society-wide benefits boosting economic growth and reducing pressure on the environment. 

 

It’s small adjustments that are setting the stage for big impact and the industry-altering initiatives to come. Toscana Divino (along with their two other restaurant locations: Ironside and La Giulietta and the private restaurants they own and operate throughout Miami including Oceana Key Biscayne, Ballerina Bal Harbor, the Grand Bay Kitchen in Coconut Grove, as well as their newest additions, the Fugo Bar and Enoteca inside the Eighty Seven Park building of Renzo Piano in Miami Beach), sources their food locally and seasonally. They work closely with Nourish’d Pastures, a small farm they helped fund, to raise pasture-fed chickens used at their restaurants in a waste-minimizing nose-to-tail fashion where no part of the animal goes to waste. Seafood served is also ethically raised, with emphasis placed on local, less mainstream fish in favor of popular imported catches such as Salmon. Other details also add up, like the eatery’s commitment to reducing plastic, limiting paper usage, conserving water (neither restaurant serves bottled water), using eco-friendly cleaning products, and only using energy-efficient lighting sources. 

But most impressive is their vision for the future, an ambitious three-part goal already underway: 1) zero waste, 2) plastic recovery and 3) “farm-to-table 2.0.” At the moment, Toscana Divino collects all vegetable waste for composting at Ironside, however, the company intends to extend its reach far beyond their own restaurants by investing in the composting technology their farm partners would need to implement Toscana’s same measures. As for plastic, the team is looking forward to changes on a grand-scale with global influence. 

 

“We’re looking into seeing how we can take the plastic that we used today and convert it into a vital resource such as fuel or diesel. We’re very passionate about finding a new way. We’re actively looking to be able to collaborate with a company that has the skills and knowledge of how to take plastic and convert it into something that we can use, whether it’s to supply our vehicles or our farming. This is a long way out; it’s a big process, but it will be a game-changer.”  

 

Last on the agenda, but not least, is “farm-to-table 2.0,” a project helmed by Resourceful Toscana aimed at bringing sustainable, artisanal products to customers’ homes. 

 

“In every Italian city, in the central downtown market, the farmers from the countryside bring daily produce, meat and fish: eating fresh and seasonal is the basis of our culinary tradition. We basically want to do the same thing here, focusing on quality ingredients, and delivering the best directly to the houses of our clientele.” 

Superior Superfoods

An under-the-radar vertical farm ringing in the future of food

This indoor urban farm lives in an industrial warehouse and provides the greens and veggies for numerous local hot spots around Miami from a very limited vertical grow space. Owned and operated by 28-year-old Alejandro Lozano, one of only 8% of farmers under the age of 35 in the U.S., Superior Superfoods aims to develop a hyper-local food economy, taking the agriculture historically subsidized by government and placing it back into the hands of the people. Flipping traditional agriculture on its head, Superior Superfoods is somewhat of a Miami Robinhood, selling to high-end restaurants and redistributing the wealth to its local community, the redlined and underserved Allapattah, an area classified as a “food desert” due to its limited access to nutritious, affordable food. The ultimate goal? To reconnect the community with the food they’re buying, resolve the disassociation between individuals and the food they consume, and participate in the local economy.

“Although our price points may be marginally higher, it’s actually more expensive to buy food from grocery stores in the long run. When you do, you forgo the shelf life of your food by giving it to the supply chain. Purchasing locally-grown food results in an extended shelf life. It’s important to remember that we vote with our dollars, and I vote to support the local economy over big agriculture.”

The farm, a new start-up launched in 2020, already provides food to restaurants such as Thatch Miami, All Day, and Love Life Café, using only a fraction of their grow space, a detail they hope will demonstrate how little space is actually needed to sustain the local food economy. In the coming months, they hope to offer a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) box, discounted for their Allapattah neighbors.

With a vision for a carbon neutral business, sustainable packaging, fungicide and pesticide free organic farming, Lozano is quietly working behind the scenes, giving farming enthusiasts a little inspiration and re-educating the community on food production, consumption, and how vertical farming can help combat climate change.

Mamey

A Caribbean island-minded concept that grows its own veggies

Located at Thesis Hotel Miami, Mamey is the brainchild of Niven Patel, a Gujarati-American chef lauded for the eclectic Indian cuisine and farm-to-table dining he introduced with Ghee, his first Miami restaurant. Patel, who is soon to open a new

neighborhood spot focusing on top notch ingredients and wood-fired cooking called Orno, takes local sourcing to new heights, growing the majority of his own produce on a personal two-acre farm dubbed “Rancho Patel.” Think classics like kale, cherry tomatoes and eggplant, but also heirloom lima beans and more obscure Asian greens like “patra” and “tindora.” For items he can’t get at his own farm, Patel uses a network of local farmers to source produce for Mamey, or forages himself when possible. 

Aside from where his ingredients come from, Patel hones in on what he does with them, ensuring little waste, as much efficiency as possible, and re-purposing any fresh ingredients the kitchen doesn’t get to in their cocktail program. For what is left over, Mamey’s pastry chef Amy Kalinowski is launching an in-house composting program, inspired by the film “Kiss The Ground.”

Delicious Raw

A plant-based eatery that will save both the earth and your taste buds

Launched in 2013, this restaurant works magic with local and sustainable plant-based dishes made from produce plucked from vendors with responsible farming practices in mind. As a founding member of Plastic Free Miami Beach, Delicious Raw uses 100% reusable items for dine-in and take-out, opting for a plastic free business model with only the exception of its juice cups, which are made from compostable plant fibers. They also work toward reducing energy consumption at all three of their locations, along with limiting paper usage and conserving water, a dialogue that begins within the company from the first day of training.

“We do everything with a focus on creating as little waste as possible. Many restaurants prepare food in large batches with an expectation of waste as a sacrifice for efficiency. We put a lot of effort in creating new recipes so that we can make them quickly when ordered, yet generate as little waste as possible. By preparing smaller batches more frequently and placing smaller orders more frequently, we can make sure that we are able to use all of our ingredients before they expire and offer the freshest possible food to our guests.”

Flemming Madsen

So what’s on the menu? A plethora of nut butters, nut milks and nut flours, superfood pastas made of such vegetables as black bean, sweet potato and turmeric pepper, gluten free and vegan baked goods, dehydrated fruits and veggies, vegan yogurts, dressings and jams, all made in-house in their scratch kitchen. 

Go Green Now

A small local farm for one, for now 

Owned by husband and wife duo Juan and Patty Antuna, Go Green Now is a small farm located in North Miami and the main purveyor for Pinch Kitchen & Bar, an Upper Eastside eatery with an eclectic bent and local, seasonal flair. Passionate about plants, food and nature, the Juan and Patty began their journey in gardening about five years ago with a small 4’ x 8’ raised bed at a local community garden. Eventually finding their way to participating in Little River Coop Farm’s Urban Farming Incubator Program for two consecutive years, their hobby turned into a job they believe in. Now, the two run their own farm where vegetables are grown from organic non-GMO seeds (purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Kitazawa, Southern Exposure, and Rare Seeds), watered manually from an on-site well in order to reduce water waste, and treated with Certified Organic pesticides. n

“Having healthy soil creates strong plants, and that is the first defense against pests. Beneficial insects, like our friends the lady bugs, play a major role in helping combat aphids, a very common insect that can damage plants, and other pests." 

Patty Atuna

“Manual removal is our next line of attack for pests. We follow Integrated Pest Management best practices, use Certified Organic pesticides, and always read the labels and follow the instructions very carefully. Drip irrigation provides water to the plants’ roots keeping the tops dry, which reduces pests and diseases, preventing and/or reducing the need to use pesticides.” 

Until they can expand their operations while maintaining the same level of excellence, Go Green Now plans to keep their clientele small, preferring to offer high quality rather than high volume. 

 

“We are perfectionists, which is an advantage and a disadvantage. Our products are superior in quality to most others because we pay attention to every single detail, but in that perfectionism, we lose efficiency. We want to keep the same quality and therefore we cannot expand our operations much at this time, but we have some room to grow and we would be happy to cooperate with some other restaurants in the future.” 

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