Emmanuel Verstraeten wants to give diners a scientific guarantee that restaurant food is both healthy and sustainable, reports Jeff Gordinier in The New York Times (1/9/13). Emmanuel — or Manu, as he is known — has developed a set of standards and a “squiggly red insignia” bearing the initials SPE, which stand for Sanitas Per Escam, “a fancy Latin way of saying, ‘health through food’.” The logo appears next to certifiably healthy and sustainable dishes at Rouge Tomate, his Manhattan restaurant. What it means is that the item has been screened by a team of experts to ensure that it is good for the consumer and the planet alike.
Manu’s vision is that the SPE logo would “appear on menus around the world — at fast-food stands and four-star palaces, on cruise ships and in college cafeterias.” Because such eateries would be paying a fee to earn the stamp, Manu thinks he’s “going to become very rich” once “a giant global chain like McDonald’s signs on.” So far, other than his own restaurant, Manu has three clients: University of Massachusetts, Celebrity Cruises and the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York. While the concept may prove popular with diners, chefs could be a tougher sell: “It takes an especially enlightened chef to let someone put his dishes through a nutritional wringer and tell him how to make them differently.”
Linton Hopkins, an Atlanta-based chef, says he likes the idea but just sees some problems with it. He thinks it’s wasteful to restrict the use of the fattier parts of a pig, for example. “What are you going to do with the rest of the animal?” he says. He also says he’s against “demonizing butter and cream and lard” and rejects any thought of a ban on barbecue. Others think it would be hard to police. “How are you going to control the amount of salt?” says Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. Eric also thinks putting the SPE sticker on some dishes but not others” denigrates the others. Manu and his team meanwhile are reinventing pesto for the University of Massachusetts cafeteria, using kale instead of basil. It’s said to be off to a promising start, but reportedly just needs a little more salt.