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Eco catering is all the rage in the country's capital.
The pork comes from a seventh generation farm in northern Virginia. The poultry is raised in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. The tomatoes are sourced from the greater Washington, D.C. area or maybe the Carolinas in the winter. Indeed, every menu Eco Caters Catering produces is composed of ingredients that are organic, sustainable and as local as the seasons allow.
Founded in Los Angeles, the eco-conscious catering company debuted its D.C. location less than four years ago but is already finding an audience for its foodie philosophy.
“We’ve been really well received,” said John Cosgrove, head of the D.C. branch. “It’s caught on really well.”
When the D.C. location first launched, Eco Caters found a niche preparing food for the area’s professional sports teams. Corporate events soon joined the roster and, over the past 18 months, Cosgrove has been cultivating a growing wedding business.
The business’s popularity rests on two factors: personalization and personality (of the food, that is). Even with the restraints put on Eco Caters by its dedication to sourcing food locally, the staff customizes every menu to the specific needs of the client. There is no such thing as a “standard” item, Cosgrove stressed, but options like goat cheese gougeres, grilled lamb chops with apricot-fig chutney and herb-stuffed organic trout are among the tasty items in its repertoire.
The company’s cooking style is about simple preparations that let the character of the carefully selected ingredients shine through, Cosgrove said.
“We don’t over-season, we don’t over-sauce anything,” he said. “We like the original flavor of the food to be present.”
The Eco Caters story began eight years ago, on the other side of the country. Demand for sustainably-sourced food was soaring in California and chef Nick Brune saw an opportunity. With just $2,200 in seed money, he and partner Adam Hiner launched a catering business that promised local, organic food and immediately started looking for vendors.
“We drove from San Diego to Santa Barbara finding a bunch of cool local farms,” he said.
They also developed processes to calculate with extreme precision how much food they would need to serve an event of a given size. This approach let them significantly reduce the amount of food they wasted, which saved money, kept prices in check and boosted their eco-friendliness.
As the business took off, the pair decided to expand the Eco Caters name by licensing the company name, concept and proprietary processed to epicurean entrepreneurs in new locations. Cosgrove, a D.C.-area native and restaurant industry veteran, jumped at the chance to bring the sustainable, organic food he loved to his home. At the time, he said, the farm-to-table movement hadn’t really taken off in the area and he saw possibilities in getting into a growing market early on.
Now that the trend toward farm-fresh food has taken off, Eco Caters D.C. is flourishing. And for Cosgrove, the choice to grow an eco-conscious business in an iconic American location just makes sense.
“We all really believe in serving organic food and sustainable and local practices,” he said. “Our nation’s capital needs a place like that.”