Eat Well Heroes: Randy Talley at Green Sage Cafe

By Audrey Jenkins | 08.06.2015 | 

Many chefs work hand in hand with local food producers, leading the way toward a more sustainable food system. We are thrilled to support these chefs and the good work they do through the Eat Well Guide, our curated directory of 25,000+ farms, restaurants, markets and other retail outlets of locally grown and sustainably produced food throughout the US. Our new and improved Eat Well Guide just launched! Be among the first to visit the new Eat Well Guide and take your sustainable food search to the next level!

This week, we're highlighting Randy Talley, co-owner and president of Green Sage Cafe, which has three locations in Asheville, NC. Going local is central to the Green Sage philosophy, with local ingredients and even local energy harvested from solar panels and wind farms lowering the environmental impact of their menu and lighting alike. Two of the Green Sage Cafe restaurants are Green Restaurant Association Certified. Check out Green Sage Cafe's profile on the new Eat Well Guide.

What type of cuisine do you serve at your restaurant, and how do local and sustainable ingredients factor into your menu?

At Green Sage Cafe, we offer healthy New American breakfast and lunch items all day including biscuit sandwiches, egg omelets, soups, salads, burgers, rice bowls, wraps and pastries with vegan and gluten-sensitive options as well. We also offer a wide range of beverages including organic coffee and espresso drinks, whole-leaf teas, raw juices, whole-fruit smoothies, yerba mate, kombucha, beer and wine.

We use local and sustainable ingredients wherever possible. Currently, over one third of our ingredients are local or organic and 100% of our ingredients are natural, free of preservatives, artificial flavors, antibiotics and hormones. We are also finalizing our GMO-free commitment and plan to be completely GMO-free by 2016.

Our local products include grass-fed, humanely-raised beef from Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, NC, Smiling Hara Tempeh from Asheville, NC, non-homogenized milk from Hickory Hill Farm in Edgefield, SC, certified organic Lenny Boy kombucha from Charlotte, NC and heritage Sorghum from Harrell Hill Farms in Bakersville, NC, just to name a few.

Our organic, farm-to-cup coffee is sustainably-sourced through Thrive Farmers, a farmer-direct platform that provides farmers with 2.5 times more revenue than traditional fair-trade models. Our coffee comes from an indigenous women’s cooperative in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

About how many meals do you serve a day? How big is your staff?

We serve about 200 customers per day, 7 days a week. We have three locations in Asheville with approximately 16 staff members at each location.

We have close relationships with our local farmers and producers. Not only do we visit our purveyors but we also featured them in videos and blogs on our website.

How often do you and/or your staff visit your favorite farms and/or farmers' markets?

We have close relationships with our local farmers and producers. Not only do we visit our purveyors but we also feature them in videos and blogs on our website. You can discover how the local AppalaChai team makes their organic chai, see Jamie’s animals running around Hickory Nut Gap Farm, and learn about the heritage Sorghum of Harrell Hill Farms (family-owned and operated for over 200 years) on Green Sage TV.

How do you communicate your commitment to sustainability to your customers and the community?

We communicate our commitment to sustainability through blogs on our website, social media posts, signs within our stores, Green Sage TV (a collection of short videos on our website), compost and recycling centers within our stores and our Green Restaurant Association certifications.

Describe your local food community in four words.

Connected | Conscious | Sustainable | Delicious

Are there other sustainable aspects to your establishment (water/energy conservation efforts, composting, etc.)?

Absolutely! Sustainability is part of our mission and affects each and every decision we make. We compost all of our food scraps helping us divert 95% of our waste from the landfill. We recycle our used cooking oil through Blue Ridge Biofuels which turns it into clean-burning biodiesel at their factory in Asheville. Our Downtown and South cafes have solar thermal panels on their roofs and our newest location (Westgate) has solar PV panels that act as an awning and generate enough electricity to offset the 100% LED Lighting System. Our South and Westgate locations have vent-less dishwashers that reclaim the heat from each wash to make hot water for the next wash. Green Sage Westgate also has a smarthood with the ability to turn itself on and off as needed thereby reducing the amount of conditioned air throughout the hood system, a smart espresso machine and a smart refrigeration system with one solitary compressor running all the refrigerators and coolers thereby reducing energy and maintenance costs by roughly 33 percent. We also recently partnered with Arcadia Power to source 20% of our energy from all three cafes with wind and solar power. Our goal is to eventually offset 100% of our power away from dirty fossil fuels.

How did you get your start in the business? Did you start with a sustainable focus, or did that come along later?

From the start, sustainability was the overarching direction of our business and mission. We opened with solar panels on our first cafe and later achieved our 3-star Green Restaurant Association Certification (GRA). Our second cafe was designed from scratch and achieved 4-star GRA Certification, making it the first 4-star Green Certified Restaurant in the South. We plan to obtain GRA Certification for our newest location (Westgate) which is our most energy-efficient restaurant.

The most important part of sustainability in running our business is providing nourishing meals in a warm and welcoming environment so that our guests feel great, frequent our cafe, and live long, healthy lives.

Why is sustainability important to you? What part of sustainability is most important to you in running your business?

Sustainability is simply taking responsibility of all facets of life and our business. At Green Sage Cafe we try to encapsulate this mission with our tagline “Nourishing Life.” Nourishing Life includes providing nourishing food for our clientele, creating a nourishing environment for our community to gather, and nourishing our planet by reducing our impact. The most important part of sustainability in running our business is providing nourishing meals in a warm and welcoming environment so that our guests feel great, frequent our cafe and live long, healthy lives.

Do you change your menu with the seasons? What’s the best and hardest part about your dedication to local, seasonal ingredients?

We run seasonal specials featuring local and organic ingredients while promoting categories that are in sync with the time of year. For example, in the summertime, when things heat up, people are seeking light, refreshing fare. To align with this seasonal change, we feature an asparagus quiche and a smoothie made with organic strawberries and fresh basil. The best part about our dedication to local, seasonal ingredients is that they fit well with our customers’ changing lifestyles and get them excited to try something new. The hardest part is keeping our prices low while balancing the high-cost of our commitment to organic and sustainable ingredients.

Do you have a favorite dish at your restaurant right now?

Our Chopped BBQ Tempeh Burger. It features local tempeh braised with our housemade BBQ sauce that is made with local sorghum, topped with creamy kale coleslaw and served on a multigrain thin sandwich bun.

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