Harvest Restaurant is Doing the Right Thing With Their Cuisine

Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a Platinum Example of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program.

Harvest Restaurant, Saute Magazine, Kyle St John



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 twenty-pound yellowtail tuna that Ryan Trolley and the boys at Harbor Fish Company in Dana Point pulled from the ocean that 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,” he said. “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 it’s rockfish. It’s great because 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’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 water 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 food journey from #hooktoharvest that guests at Harvest can follow by way of a chalkboard menu sign at the restaurant’s entrance. It tells a tale of food from-the-source.  Like what’s ripe for picking in the garden and the daily catch. In this case, the clear-eyed yellowtail in the walk-in.

These details are just part of Harvest’s commitment to responsible business. Harvest is not only the first restaurant in Laguna Beach to become a Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurant, it’s one of the first in the area to reach platinum status, meaning it’s fulfilled all 11 criteria of the program. The guiding five rules are (1) no styrofoam (2) proper recycling practices (3) reusable tableware only (4) no plastic bags for take-out (5) paper straws on request.

 You’ve likely heard of the The Surfrider Foundation. It’s 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.

Cleaning the beach is what inspired Surfrider Foundation to create The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program in 2016. Volunteers noticed that much of the trash they fished from the shoreline was restaurant waste: things like styrofoam take-out containers, plastic bags, straws, lids, plastic bottles and caps. This is troublesome because plastic does not biodegrade, which means that every piece of plastic ever made is still here, in some form or another. Microplastics are especially troublesome because they’ve even made it into our food chain. 

At a past event hosted at Harvest, former Plastic Pollution Manager, Trent Hodges explained that;

“Restaurants play a big role in fighting plastic pollution. 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.”

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, it probably operates at a high standard across the board. 

Harvest Restaurant

Indeed, the entire hotel property takes environmental stewardship very seriously.  They are recognized as a 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 are the first hospitality entity in North America to operate the GL Sand Glass Bottle Crusher. It’s a machine which reduces glass waste by 90 percent by grinding bottles into a 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.

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 to operate sustainably. 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 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 five criteria:

1. No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
2. Proper recycling practices are followed.
3. Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining.
4. No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders, and utensils are provided only upon request.                                                                                             5. Paper straws are provided only upon request.

And choose a minimum of two of these criteria as well:                                 

6. No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
7. A discount is offered for customers with a reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
8. Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis.  
9. All seafood is ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch, or certified as sustainable.                                                                                 10. Water conservation and pollution mitigation efforts are implemented.
11. Energy efficiency efforts are in place.

Restaurants who meet all of the criteria are recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurants.

Interested in becoming a Surfrider Ocean Friendly Restaurants member?  Click Here.








Tip: Lost Pier Cafe at Aliso Creek Beach is now an Ocean Friendly Restaurant!

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