BW's Treefort 2019 Playlist: Sourcing Matters Tapes a Live Food Podcast at the Basque Center 

click to enlarge Left to right: Kris Komori, Aaron Niederhelman and Beth Rasgorshek recording Sourcing Matters.  - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Left to right: Kris Komori, Aaron Niederhelman and Beth Rasgorshek recording Sourcing Matters.
Aaron Niederhelman, the voice behind the food and farm-focused podcast Sourcing Matters, can usually be found in Massachusetts, recording material on the edge of Harvard Square. But he made an exception this week, traveling to Idaho to capture a live episode in Boise's Basque Center in conjunction with Foodfort. Chef Kris Komori of the local-focused restaurant/bar group KIN Boise and Nampa organic seed farmer Beth Rasgorshek sat in, as the goal of Sourcing Matters—"using food as a silver bullet of change," both social and environmental—is right up their respective edible alleys.

Over a full hour, their conversation ranged across the complexities of working with small local farms (it requires a constant, patient back-and-forth) and where produce goes after its seeds are removed (due to complex regulations, often to the chickens or the compost pile). They also touched on the difference between organic seeds and GMOs (Niederhelman called the latter "playing Russian roulette in a Petri dish"), how chefs and seed producers are finding a middle ground in flavor, and the state of wages for food industry workers.

"We want being in a restaurant to be a career," Komori said when asked about paying his staff. "We want to legitimize it as an industry and we can't do that unless we pay better and make it something a cook can live off of."

He also noted a shortage of cooks in Boise as talent drains away to larger cities, and said higher wages can be one of the best ways to retain staff, even though, like ethical sourcing, that's reflected in higher menu prices that can turn some guests away. Rasgorshek chimed in, saying that when it comes to payment for farm workers, "It's a mixed bag out there."

The discussion ended with an audience Q&A, during which one attendee, Cal Elliot, asked Komori a question that caught the whole room's attention.

"How do you fight other restaurants that are using buzzwords and trends? You know, I see an 'Idaho' sign on every restaurant downtown and then I read the menu and there's a burger and chicken wings, and there's nothing that represents the local farm on there," he said. "And I'm told that all these restaurants are doing the right thing, but I don't really see it on any of their menus."

Komori had a few tips for sniffing out greenwashing, from checking whether a restaurant has the same menu all year (a bad sign, as the same produce is rarely available year-round), to getting familiar with the food in season. But at the end of the day, he said, there's only one way to really know where the food in your restaurant dish is coming from: "You have to be inquisitive. You've got to ask."

The full episode of Sourcing Matters should go up on the podcast's website in roughly a week, and hit iTunes a few weeks after that. 
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