Organic label challenges Humber Room

Trevor Meynert, Humber culinary instructor and chef, at the Humber Room kitchen. (Photo: Sveta Soloveva) Trevor Meynert, Humber culinary instructor and chef, at the Humber Room kitchen. (Photo: Sveta Soloveva)

Sveta Soloveva
Life Reporter 

Humber culinary instructor Trevor Meynert said he likes the idea of having organic products in the Humber Room, but he doesn’t trust labels.

“If our suppliers label it [the product] as organic, we trust them. But can we trust the label?” asked Meynert, who has been working in the Canadian culinary industry for more than 20 years.

While Humber deals with reputed Canadian suppliers, such as GoTo, the problem of getting pure organic food remains because there are no strict regulations on certifying food in the US and Canada, Meynert said.

The Humber Room, run by the college’s culinary program, pays more attention on where the product comes from than if it has an USDA-label. The restaurant tries to buy as many local products as possible.

Ontario-grown garlic, onions and potatos are always in the kitchen. Apples, pears and raspberries are easy to get from the local farms in the summer and fall, said Meynert.

As winter arrives, the staff has to buy more products overseas, including tomatoes, oranges and strawberries from California.

Sometimes it is positive to have products from different countries that have stricter regulations on GMO, said the cullinary professor.

“If you get product from Australia or Japan, it’s certified. You can trust them. There are special food scientists working together with the government who can really certify that,” he said.

Meynert is proud the Humber kitchen is MSG-free. He is concerned that some food-chains have monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer, in their food, and it can be addicting.

“It tells your brain, ‘Oh my god it tastes so good’, and you want to eat it again,” Meynert said.

Nevertheless, he still hopes the future of science will be focused on the health of humans and planet in general.

“I don’t think that any scientist out there is going to harm our people. If they [scientists] work for the betterment of humans, I think the future of food is great. If you can make sure that it’s safe, I would have GMO,” Meynert said.

Celebrity farmer and chef Michael Stadtländer is not so tolerant towards GMOs. He said they poison people, while organic products make people healthier.

On Oct. 24, in the light of the environmental festival Planet in Focus, visitors to Innis College at University of Toronto met Stadtländer, and he answered visitors’ questions after a screening of the Camp Home Project, documentary about his organic farm near Collingwood.

People who have been on Stadtländer’s farm said the food they tried there was unbelievably delicious.

Stadtländer said he would like to see more people choose organic products.

“People say the planet doesn’t need us, but we need the planet. I believe that if you show the Earth that you have a positive thought, you will get that back,” the farmer-chef said.

Of course, even though people want to make healthy choices, some will say organic is not affordable for everyone. Someone asked Stadtländer how low-income students living in the city may have organic food and live sustainably.

“I guess to have connection with a local farmer or gardener is the key,” Stadtländer said.

He suggested students find organic farms where they could work for a couple of days a month and get bonuses.

He added organic food may be even cheaper if it is seasonal. He recommended checking Loblaws and Kensington Market for those deals.

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