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Archive for Monday, May 14, 2007

Burger time

Sundance Channel serves up Local Burger to national audience

Hilary Brown, owner of Local Burger, 714 Vt., will be featured on the Sundance Channel's "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Eat." Brown is one of three individuals that the program centers around who Sundance claims "are passionate about changing the way we eat."

Hilary Brown, owner of Local Burger, 714 Vt., will be featured on the Sundance Channel's "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Eat." Brown is one of three individuals that the program centers around who Sundance claims "are passionate about changing the way we eat."

May 14, 2007

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Simran Sethi, a former MTV news journalist and Sundance on-air host, recently relocated to Lawrence and recommended Local Burger for the profile.

Simran Sethi, a former MTV news journalist and Sundance on-air host, recently relocated to Lawrence and recommended Local Burger for the profile.

Tom Szaky, co-founder and CEO of TerraCycle, is featured in "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Eat" on the Sundance Channel. Hilary Brown, owner of Local Burger, 714 Vt., is also featured on the program, and will play host to a screening tonight at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass.

Tom Szaky, co-founder and CEO of TerraCycle, is featured in "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Eat" on the Sundance Channel. Hilary Brown, owner of Local Burger, 714 Vt., is also featured on the program, and will play host to a screening tonight at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass.

'Localize Me?' A downtown restaurant puts unique spin on famous documentary

The downtown restaurant 'Local Burger' has put its own spin on the hit documentary 'Super-size Me.' Enlarge video

Past Event
Screening: "Eat: Big Ideas for a Small Planet"

Also featuring the first annual “Miles Awards”

  • When: Monday, May 14, 2007, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
  • Cost: $5
  • More on this event....

Internationally renowned environmental journalist Simran Sethi was debating whether to move to Lawrence.

After stints anchoring the news for MTV Asia and MTV India, Sethi was back living in New York, where she was developing a show with the Sundance Channel. Yet her boyfriend was heading to Kansas University to pursue his graduate degree.

Sethi was discussing the potential move with a friend who's an eco fashion expert in New York City.

"I told her I was thinking about moving to Lawrence, Kansas, and she said, 'Oh. You have to go to Local Burger,'" Sethi recalls.

"It might not have played a role in my decision to move to Lawrence, but it certainly made it more enticing to know there was a restaurant committed to local, seasonal and organic produce and procurements."

In the same spirit of organic cooperation that is at the heart of the environmental sustainability movement, Sethi returned the favor to Local Burger owner Hilary Brown.

In January, camera crews invaded the restaurant at 714 Vt. Brown found herself and Local Burger the centerpiece of the Sundance Channel production "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Eat." The Lawrence native became one of three individuals featured "who are passionate about changing the way we eat," according to the Sundance synopsis.

The show premieres nationally at 8 p.m. Tuesday (available locally on Sunflower Broadband Channel 168).

"Big Ideas" is the flagship of a block of Sundance programming presented by Robert Redford called "The Green," a weekly primetime destination focusing on environmental issues.

"The topic that is covered on 'Big Ideas' tends to be the topic that drives the evening of programming," says Sethi, who is host of "The Green" and a frequent guest expert on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

"I think it lays a really strong foundation for what people see during the block. It fleshes out ideas and really makes things tangible and practical."

'Localize Me'

"We wanted to show that these eco innovators aren't just living in New York and California," says Laura Michalchyshyn, executive vice president and general manager of programming and creative affairs for the Sundance Channel.

"Hilary Brown is running a very successful green business in the heartland. She is charismatic, energetic and a real entrepreneur with a fantastic vision."

The Sundance execs were also highly intrigued by one of Brown's proposals.

"I thought it would be so cool to do the opposite of 'Super Size Me,'" Brown explains.

That was in reference to Morgan Spurlock's Oscar-nominated documentary in which the filmmaker decided to subsist on nothing but McDonald's for one month. The resulting un-Happy Meals left Spurlock a physical and emotional wreck.

Brown took the reverse tactic by selecting an overweight fast-food junkie - 29-year-old Lawrence resident Daniel Fisher - and feeding him only Local Burger meals for a month.

"I truly believed the results would be as stunning but in a positive way. And I was right," she says of the experiment dubbed "Localize Me."

Her "Big Ideas" episode documents this change in Fisher, who dropped 20 pounds and dramatically lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol level.

"Daniel absolutely loved the food," Brown says. "He repeatedly said, 'I never felt like I was on a diet.'"

Brown claims Fisher has kept the lifestyle change going - although his meals are no longer freebies - and has dropped a total of 50 pounds since January.

"People say, 'Eating at Local Burger for 30 days would be way too expensive.' But that's why I taught Daniel how to do some of this cooking for himself," she says.

Miles ahead

Tonight's gathering at Liberty Hall won't just be to screen "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Eat." Brown and Sethi are using the occasion to launch the Miles Awards.

"I wanted to recognize the farmers and producers who were committed to sustainable practices, so I came up with the awards," Brown says.

The prizes are individualized for each farmer, with numbers that display how many miles away they are from Local Burger. Thus the name.

Sethi, who will help present the awards, adds, "Hilary is honoring her suppliers who made sure we had the best local elk and the most delicious tomatoes. ... as well as draw attention to the whole concept of food miles. Currently, the average item on a North American plate travels about 1,500 miles from farm to fork. The fact that Hilary is committed to local procurement not only promotes sustainability, but it makes sure the food is fresher and tastier as a result, and that we're keeping the money in the local economy."

Bigger Burger

Brown admits she is "thoroughly pleased" with how "Big Ideas" turned out. As for what the national exposure means for Local Burger, she is openly optimistic.

"I'd like to open Local Burger in different markets doing the same concept using local meats and as much local produce as possible," she says.

"I don't want to do it too prematurely - I had people wanting to open one up in Kansas City after I was open a month, and things were far from where I wanted them to be."

Surprisingly, she thinks Local Burger would go over even better in Kansas City than it does in Lawrence.

"I think it would work 10 times better in Kansas City. There's been a great deal of publicity. There's a bigger market of people with food allergies who now know I serve that market. There's a bigger market of people interested in grass-fed meats. There's a bigger market of people willing to spend more money for their food," she says.

Ultimately, Brown believes the concept of "green living" is starting to become adopted by the mainstream. It wouldn't shock her to see other competitors open up similar Lawrence-based restaurants in the near future.

She says, "There's a lot of positive change on the horizon in regards to our relationship and connection with food. I think we can really change the planet if we did a little bit - just bought a little more local food, and started thinking about what our dollar buys."

Comments

Mkh 7 years, 7 months ago

Local Burger is one of the best establishments this town has, and by far the most progressive. Clearly LB is way way ahead of it's time, but in the future all resturants will follow the LB model and become local once it costs too much to transport food.

Confrontation 7 years, 7 months ago

I was a little unsure of eating at this place, but I'm glad I did. The small salad was amazing and the new turkey burger was the best I've ever had. Although I'm not concerned about my food being produced locally, I will stop by this restaurant again.

MyName 7 years, 7 months ago

Currently, the average item on a North American plate travels about 1,500 miles from farm to fork.

It's funny because what's the average distance from here to the coasts? About 1500 miles.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 7 months ago

IN addition to simply knowing where your food is grown and/or comes from, locally produced food is a "greener" option because it requires less in terms of gas and other transportation energy to transport food from local farms, etc, than to transport food from across the country.

Little_jim 7 years, 7 months ago

This is how to sell 'green' and 'healthy' to the general public. Put out a quality product, for a good price, and have a nice atmoshere. I feel like I am paying a bit of a premium for a better product (the pork burger rocks!) and not getting gouged so I can feel good about how the former farm animal that is now dinner existed.

Local Burger is on our rotation of 'quick bites to eat' when we are in town, and needing a meal. The food is always good, and service is better than any chain place in town.

Thanks Hillary for taking the time to have a fine product!

Nate Poell 7 years, 7 months ago

I'd heard mixed things about Local Burger, but after going there once I was totally sold. The veggie burger and seaweed salad are superb. (I have to wonder, though, how local the seaweed could possibly be.)

On a different note, it's not just Local Burger that works to procure local and/or seasonal ingredients. While not as dedicated as Local Burger, Free State and Pachamama's do a commendable job, as well.

MyName, you're not seriously suggesting that "the coasts" get all their food products from the midwest, are you?

redglare 7 years, 7 months ago

Local burger is outta sight! We need 50,000 local burgers in this nation, each drawing its ingredients from nearby farms and providing tasty, healthy food to customers. This is one of the best things in Lawrence and Hillary is a great American for taking the initiative to build this sensible, sustainable business. Truly, she's an example of someone thinking globally and acting locally.

Confrontation 7 years, 7 months ago

"Why are you not concerned about your food being produced locally? You don't want to know where it comes from? The pet food scare is a perfect example of why it is good to know where food comes from."

I've known too many local growers who have very questionable methods. Growing up in a farming area, I am smart enough to know that local isn't always healthier. You'd be silly to assume that Farmer Joe couldn't possibly provide you with E. coli tainted veggies. Also, don't think that the local butcher isn't capable of being dishonest or urinating in your ground beef (I personally know someone who did this). Sure, I wouldn't mind purchasing some things at the local market, but I'm not going to stop purchasing from other stores or restaurants that don't use local goods.

shockchalk 7 years, 7 months ago

Now this is one Hilary I would vote for in 08! Great food and a wonderful atmospere! Everyone should go there and try it out.

afred 7 years, 7 months ago

Hilary & friends... good work. Glad to see things are going well. Really appreciate your vision. Hope it catches on.

ronwell_dobbs 7 years, 7 months ago

Food's awful good, it just seems a bit pricey for a burger joint. Also, I don't like fancy names for "staples" like french fries. It would be good for us all to be more acquainted with the concept of "food miles".

b_asinbeer 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm sorry, but I did not like the food at all. The price only added insult to injury. Perhaps if the food was good, I wouldn't mind the price so much.

I'm sure that it'll thrive and the concept is good, but maybe hire a better chef?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Good Job Local Burger and as Hilary pointed out this can be done at home. Between Local Burger,The Merc and the Farmers Market it can be done.

Where is your food coming from?

Melamine-spiking ââ Åwidespreadââ ? in China; human food broadly contaminated

Who knows what kind of (edited) is adulterating our imported and domestic food supply? But whatever it is, itââ /¢s about to hit the fan.

Months after dogs and cats started dropping dead of renal failure from melamine-tainted pet food, American consumers are beginning to learn how long and how wide this contaminant has also poisoned the human food supply. Last week, as California officials revealed that at least 45 people are known to have eaten tainted pork, the USDA announced that it would pay farmers millions of dollars to destroy and dispose of thousands of hogs fed ââ Åsalvagedââ ? pet food.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Through the salvaging practice, melamine-tainted pet food has likely contaminated Americaââ /¢s livestock for as long as it has been killing and sickening Americaââ /¢s pets ââ " as far back as August of 2006, or even earlier. And while it may seem alarmist to suggest without absolute proof that Americans have been eating melamine-tainted pork, chicken and farm-raised fish for the better part of a year, the FDA and USDA seem to be preparing to brace Americans for the worst. In an unusual, Saturday afternoon joint press release, the regulators tasked with protecting the safety of our nationââ /¢s food supply go to convoluted lengths to reassure the public that eating melamine-tainted pork is perfectly safe.

In a fit of reverse-homeopathy the press release steps us through the dilution process, tracing the path of melamine-tainted rice protein through the food system. The rice protein is a partial ingredient in pet food, we are told, which is itself only a partial ingredient in the feed given to hogs, who then ââ Åexcreteââ ? some of the melamine in their urine. And, ââ Åeven if present in pork,ââ ? they reassure us, ââ Åpork is only a small part of the average American diet.ââ ?

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