Arizona is the third-largest agricultural producer in the country. But nearly all of its produce gets shipped away. It's happening everywhere. My ex-partner in Hawaii asked me what I pay for Hawaiian ahi. It turns out he's paying $4 more per pound than what I'm paying and he's getting a lower grade. All of the prime grade ahi from Hawaii is being shipped off the island.
It's the politics of food. It's why Hawaiians now weigh 300 pounds. They're no longer eating their indigenous diet. It's the same for the Pima Indians. In order to get our indigenous foods back--there are no better melons than Arizona melons--farmers have to be able to transport melons here, and they need a market.
Just imagine their overflowing trucks rolling in from Chino Valley, from Queen Creek and down from the White Mountains. We could support a central market; the population base is here. There is the demand. And we have a growing season that lasts longer than almost anyone else's. It's a matter of not having our wealth shipped off to the L.A. market. And New York.
The long and short of it is that we haven't come nearly as far as we can. We are a resort community with fabulous first-rate resorts. And when that kind of purchasing power drives the economy, its influence is massive. The resorts have a lot of financial resources, and they could begin to introduce the principles of biodiversity in their restaurants, starting with their smaller venues. They could really support the agricultural community here and are in a very good position to make some very progressive and responsible choices; it remains to be seen whether they will. It's a matter of consciousness. We could do it in this community. It could happen here.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying meat; there is something wrong with consuming it in amounts that threaten our health and environment. And fine dining is more than just consuming protein. It's culture. What we eat is representative of who we are as a culture. It makes me sad to think that Morton's: The Steakhouse is representative of our culture. There's something wrong with that picture.
Looking at my restaurant, Chris Bianco's place, Chrissa Kaufman's Rancho Pinot Grill--these are not fancy places. But they're places that have a sensitivity. It's not just serving food because it makes money, but also to feed the soul. It makes the diner happy and healthy. And it's respectful of people, respectful of the environment, respectful of the end-user. The whole picture makes sense. That's the picture that will take us to the next millennium with pride--and it will be sustainable.