Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a Platinum Example of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program
xecutive Chef Kyle St. John of Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch at Laguna Beach was excited to show me something in the walk-in — it was a big, twenty-pound yellowtail tuna that Ryan Trolley and the boys at Harbor Fish Company in Dana Point pulled from the ocean that very morning.
“ I got a call this morning about the catch, and I was like, yeah, I want it,” Chef told me of the twenty-plus pound beauty. “ I love that relationship. It allows me to say, hey; you guys are the ones sourcing from the sea, I just want what you can catch … Sometimes its tuna, sometimes its rockfish, its great because in the kitchen it forces us out of our comfort zone to get creative.”
For Chef, that creativity starts with only the best, seasonal ingredients, sourced in the most responsible ways possible. He gets some of his ingredients from Harvest Restaurant’s own on-site, ½ acre organic veggie garden, or from trusted purveyors like Harry’s Berries. Fish comes from Santa Monica Seafood, but when he can get it, it comes straight from the ocean between Laguna Beach and Catalina Island. Inspired by San Diego chef Jason McLeod for his exclusive use of San Diego caught seafood, Chef Kyle is starting his own grassroots push for hyperlocal seafood caught nearby.
It’s a journey from #hooktoharvest that guests at Harvest can follow by way of an artistic chalkboard sign at the entrance to the restaurant. It features what’s ripe for picking at the garden, like chard, mustard greens and peppers, as well as the daily catch, like the clear-eyed yellowtail in the walk-in.
These details are just part of Harvest Restaurant’s commitment to responsible business. Harvest is not only the first restaurant in Laguna Beach to be recognized as the Surfrider Foundation South OC Chapter’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants— its one of the first in the area to reach platinum status, meaning it’s fulfilled all ten criteria of the program. The guiding four criteria are: no styrofoam, proper recycling practices, reusable tableware and no plastic bags.
You’ve probably heard of The Surfrider Foundation as a leading national coastal protection group dedicated to protecting the world’s ocean, waves and beaches. National efforts focus on plastic pollution, clean water, coastal preservation, beach access and ocean protection. Regional efforts include education, advocacy and beach clean-ups — of which inspired the creation of The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program in Orange County after volunteers noticed that much of the trash they fished from the shoreline was restaurant waste: styrofoam take-out containers, straws, lids, plastic bottles and caps. The OFR program aims to reduce plastic pollution and promote environmental sustainability in businesses by working with restaurants and hotels to advocate best practice. Examples include proper recycling, eliminating Styrofoam, straws and plastic bottles, as well as sourcing seafood in compliance with guidelines set by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. Scalable reduction of our plastic footprint is possible, and the OFR program aims to establish the effort in motion one restaurant and one customer at a time.
“Restaurants play a big role in fighting plastic pollution,” says Surfrider’s Plastic Pollution Manager, Trent Hodges at a recent OFR event hosted at Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch. “And that’s what this program is all about. Helping business owners use their platform to talk about plastic pollution and educate consumers about doing their part to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics.”
Researchers estimate that there’s now over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. Some parts of the ocean are so saturated with plastic that you can walk on water. The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program offers restaurants a visible way to pledge their commitment to sustainable choices by recognizing them as coastal defenders in their community. As a frequent restaurant goer, it signals to me that if a business cares about making environmental and sustainable choices, they probably operate at a high standard across the board.
Harvest is a case in point. In fact, the entire hotel property takes environmental stewardship very seriously. They’re a member of the prestigious National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. And when it comes to progressive solutions, they’re always the first to act. Take their on-site glass recycling system. They’re the first hospitality entity in North America to operate the GL Sand Glass Bottle Crusher, that reduces glass waste by 90 percent by way of grinding bottles into fine sand. It’s a progressive system used throughout New Zealand to aid in beach reclamation. At The Ranch, however, it’s an on-site recycling system that creates a perfect filler for the bunkers throughout the famed Ben Brown’s golf course.
Combined with platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurants status, a ½ acre organic garden, an eco water reclamation project and Adopt a Channel water clean-up, Harvest at The Ranch leads by example of what it means for a Laguna Beach business to respect their local, natural landscape with low-impact solutions. The scenery is decidedly worth it — the restaurant and resort sit where canyon and ocean meet, in a micro-climate that feels at times more like Napali Coast, Kauai then Coastal Orange County.
It’s a unique place, beautiful in fact, made better by the actions of people like Chef Kyle and the entire team at the resort.
Why join the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, I asked Chef.
“It’s just about doing the right thing.”
Harvest Restaurant | 31106 South Coast Highway| Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurants Criteria
Restaurants participating must follow the first four criteria:
1. No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
2. Proper recycling practices are followed.
3. Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request.
4. No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
And choose a minimum of three of these criteria as well:
5. Plastic straws are provided only upon request.
6. No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
7. Discount is offered for customers with a reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
8. Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis; and/or all seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.
9. Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented.
10. Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances are in place.
Restaurants who meet all 10 of the criteria are recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurants.
Interested in becoming a Surfrider Ocean Friendly Restaurants member? Click Here.