Will This S.F. Restaurant Redefine ‘Sustainability’ for the Food World?

The Perennial promises to push way beyond farm-to-table cooking.
Nov 19, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

It’s not easy for restaurateurs to stand out for their environmentalism in San Francisco, a city teeming with local greens and heirloom grains. But Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, the husband-and-wife duo who helped open Mission Chinese, are pushing the envelope in a number of new ways. The pair are closing the gap between farm and table by building a sustainable aquaponic greenhouse for their new restaurant, The Perennial.

The crowdfunded project, which hit its $24,000 Kickstarter goal on Tuesday, will help supply vegetables for the restaurant, which is set to open in San Francisco early next year. For the design, construction, and oversight of the greenhouse, The Perennial is partnering with Viridis Aquaponics, whose eight-acre farm in Watsonville, Calif., uses 90 percent less water than traditional soil-based farming and yields five to six times more produce per square foot.

The biodynamic aquaponics system works by using fish waste as a food source for plants and using the plants as a natural filter for the fish’s water. But the restaurant’s greenhouse will push the sustainability envelope even further by using the kitchen’s food scraps to feed the fish and then harvesting the fish by offering them on the menu, creating a closed-loop permacultural system.

That’s not all they’re doing on the environmental front. Myint and Leibowitz are also partnering with Zero Foodprint, a nonprofit started by Lucky Peach editor in chief Chris Ying that helps restaurants eliminate all carbon emissions.

The Perennial also has partnerships “with The Land Institute, to serve bread made from perennial grains, and with The Carbon Cycle Institute to serve meat grown in a manner that encourages carbon sequestration,” according to its Kickstarter page. They have also recruited the help of Chris Kuyuna, who has cooked at NOMA in Copenhagen, the first restaurant in the world to be Zero Foodprint certified.

Myint and Leibowitz call their aquaponic greenhouse “a laboratory of environmentalism in the food world.” It’s a convincing portrayal and seems to apply to The Perennial’s plans on the whole. The restaurant promises to push the notion of sustainability and how little a carbon “foodprint” they can leave on this Earth.