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Creating Change, One Meal at a Time

click to enlarge One World Spokane Chef Andrew Larson with a bowl of roasted winter squash soup — made with ingredients grown on-site. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • One World Spokane Chef Andrew Larson with a bowl of roasted winter squash soup — made with ingredients grown on-site.

Most of us set our New Year’s resolutions with the focus on ourselves. But what if we instead set goals to be kinder to the world?

Two years ago, Janice and Keith Raschko opened One World Spokane, a nonprofit restaurant with unique goals. First, though there would be no regular menu, they would always feature organic, local foods. Second, menu pricing was to be on a sliding scale. No funds to pay? Volunteering to work for an hour would get you a meal voucher. Patrons who are financially able would have the opportunity to pay a little extra to help support the restaurant. Third, the restaurant would be located in an economically challenged area of town and promote community through food.

Chef Andrew Larson welcomed the opportunity to join their efforts. “I’d read about our current food system in Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma, and seen the documentary Food, Inc.," he says, adding that he had become disillusioned with the restaurant business. “One World Spokane has given me the opportunity to help create positive change."

I asked Chef Larson for a practical example of that change. “Behind the restaurant, we have a garden. It was my main source of fresh produce during the summer. It is incredible what you can grow yourself, I didn't purchase any herbs all summer,” he says.

A large group of volunteers, led by Pat Dressler and David Tremaine, kept One World Spokane’s garden growing at their East Central Spokane location. Tomatoes, lettuce varieties, squash and beets were abundant. The team is now planning for the 2011 growing season.

Larson was trained and mentored by many chefs in this region, having worked at Rice Time Express, Patsy Clark’s, Ankeny’s at the Ridpath — all of them now relegated to the past. “Those properties and chefs gave me a great start. Now, through One World Spokane, I can also give back.”

He welcomes co-op students from the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy, adding, “The students absolutely get this vision. They enter with no preconceived ideas about how a restaurant is run ... and, oftentimes, a greater passion for the earth and community.”

Commitment to the environment is also paramount. “We absolutely recycle everything,” Larson says. “Composting food scraps, paying attention to waste and packaging ... If we need equipment, we look for used [items] first, in everything from an oven to plates.”

“We find the privilege of choosing portion size and prices leads to little or no food waste,” adds owner Janice Raschko. “We are dedicated to eliminating waste in the food industry and giving all members of the community access to healthy, organic sustainable food.”

To help with portion control, One World Spokane offers small, medium and large plates, with suggested prices for each.

One World Spokane’s website, oneworldspokane.com, is packed with good information, including a mission statement I found inspiring: “We believe by empowering individuals through respectable wages, providing meals without shame, reducing food waste through the encouragement of personal responsibility, enhancing relationships with organic farmers and creating an atmosphere where people from all socioeconomic classes can eat fresh, organic food in-community, attitudes can change. And change in attitudes is on the cutting edge of change everywhere else."

So in the coming year, digest just a piece of that quote and start with one way you can be kinder to the world. Better yet, ponder the topic with a group of friends and enjoy this soup recipe featured at One World Spokane.

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