In honor of Earth Month, we’re celebrating chefs and restaurants right in our own backyard that are crushing the sustainability game, with their unique values that nourish the earth as well as those who inhabit it.
And no one fits the bill better than Aaron Adams—a chef and restaurant owner who’s been turning Portland’s vegan food scene upside down for more than a decade now—most recently with his restaurant Fermenter, that serves ethically-sourced, robustly-flavored favorites, like oven-roasted jojos, hoagies, potato salad and burgers that require two hands to eat.
Fermenter proudly supports local farmers, who’ve been working with Adams for years, to ensure quality ingredients and to uplift local agro-economic needs. Beyond their dedication to ethically grown and gathered ingredients, Fermenter is unequivocally anti-racist and supports LGBTQ+ equality, women’s rights and animal welfare, and quite frankly goes above and beyond to care for their community.
And we were lucky enough to score some time with Aaron Adams, to talk about his prep routine, sustainable badassery, and his commitments as a chef and restaurant owner.
MISE: What is your mise en place/prep routine like?
AA: “I manage and prepare large fermentation projects for the restaurant mostly. My day and set up changes from day to day depending on what ferment I will be working on. For some days, it's preparing a tea blend and making a big batch of kombucha. Some days, it's processing a lot of cabbage for sauerkraut. Other days, I make loads of rice koji and then shio koji and miso. And all the time I am bottling our kombucha, kefir, and ginger beer with our small bottle system.”
MISE: Why is it important to you as a Chef and Restaurant Owner to mindfully source ingredients?
AA: “It's my responsibility. As a chef owner, I feel responsible for what goes into other people's bodies. Them purchasing something from me implies a level of consent assumed in that relationship. If I make something unwholesome or support exploitative work practices, all of those negative aspects are unknowingly passed on to our customer. That's a violation of consent. If you present yourself as someone who cares about organic food, or supporting local agriculture, or sustainable practices and you don't use those products or support those values you espouse, you are breaking a contract. At the end of the day, I try to mindfully source ingredients because it's the right thing to do, and in doing so helps to participate in a vibrant and beautiful family of food producers and craftspeople in our region.”
MISE: What are some of the special and sustainable ways in which Fermenter operates?
AA: “First of all, we are a vegan restaurant. Vegan food is well known to carry way less of a load ecologically. Secondly, we purchase local ingredients. Food that hasn't traveled thousands of miles has a much smaller footprint. Besides that, we employ many of the practices that are luckily very common in kitchens today: utilizing scraps in fermentation projects, recycling, and composting. Additionally, we try to find new ways to reduce our consumption of consumables by teaming with great companies like GOBOX which provide us with reusable takeaway containers, putting a deposit on our glass bottles and jars for our products, and reducing plastic use in our preparation. Finally, we donate a percentage of our sales to Zero Food Print to offset our carbon footprint.”