Six things we learned about how chefs are dealing with rising food prices from today’s Star

Six things we learned about how chefs are dealing with rising food prices from today’s Star

The prices of many agricultural commodities are determined by traders at the Chicago Merc (Image: Matt Griffin)

Though the proliferation of exorbitantly priced hamburgers may make it hard to believe, most chefs hate passing the high price of food onto their customers. In the face of rising costs, Toronto chefs are taking steps to ensure that more expensive food doesn’t necessarily lead to more expensive meals, according to a piece by Tony Wong in today’s Star. After the jump, six things we learned from it.

1. Things are pretty grim
We know food prices are rising, but by how much? The Star reports the cost of bread was up nearly 10 per cent in January compared to last year. Vegetables and meat were up 8.3 per cent and 6.5 per cent, respectively. The piece includes some other notable spikes as well, like the cost of bison meat climbing by as much as 25 per cent.

2. Blame high energy costs and wealthier developing nations
With higher energy costs come more expensive transportation and refrigeration. This is bad news for chefs, who rely on energy-intensive refrigeration to keep their food fresh. Meanwhile, the increased accumulation of wealth in the developing world means increased demand for meat, milk and cheese—leading to higher food prices.

3. Even the Pope’s chef is feeling the pinch
Okay, so Donald Duong isn’t Pope Benedicts personal chef, but the Star says the Dessert Trends owner has prepared cakes for Pope John Paul II, Stephen Harper and the leaders at the 2010 G20 summit. According to the Star, Duong uses 15 tons of chocolate a year, so that rise from roughly $6.50 per pound to $9 has got to hurt.

4. So what’s a chef to do? Some chefs are buying local
chef Lorenzo Loseto buys local ingredients to cut down on the cost of transportation. And when things are just too darn expensive—think fresh truffles and caviar—he doesn’t bother putting them on the menu.

5. And some chefs are just holding tight
Lynn Crawford,
owner and executive chef of Ruby Watchco, opened her restaurant charging $49 for a four-course prix-fixe dinner. Two years later, despite soaring costs, she hasn’t budged on that price point (or, she says, on quality and portion size). “We are still using grass-fed beef, leg of lamb, the best cuts we can get.”

6. In case you needed a reminder, Canadians don’t have it as bad as most of the rest of the world
In addition to a conspicuous lack of riots, Canadians have a few more things to be thankful for when it comes to food security. A big one: food typically makes up a smaller slice of household spending than it does in the rest of the world, and that slice is at a historic low (in 1969, it was close to 20 per cent, compared to somewhere around 10 per cent in 2009).