Believe it or not, Earth Day is right around the corner and the week is almost through! For the past 8 years, we have been teaming up with Organic Valley for their Earth Dinner series, an event where restaurants and chefs across the country highlight their use of local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients by hosting their own Earth Dinner. Certified as one of “Greenest Restaurant in America”, it isn’t uncommon to find Chef Justin Martin using fresh and organic ingredients at both locations of Uncommon Ground in Chicago. Check out what owner Helen Cameron had to say about their “uncommon” philosophy and upcoming Earth Dinner Event on April 22nd!

Is this your first year participating in the Earth Dinner Series? Why did you decide to host an Earth dinner?

This is our first year participating in the Earth Dinner Series. Our uncommon vision is to “Nourish Community & Nurture Environment” and we decided to get involved because this event aligns with our desire to educate our guests and staff about sustainable food systems and the importance of knowing where your food comes from. We choose to support the farmers, producers, and organizations who work hard to provide us with good, clean, & fair food.

What will be the format of your Earth Dinner? What will you be cooking?

We will be offering a 3-course Locavore prix-fixe menu that will include a $5 donation to Chefs Collaborative. I would love you tell you that we will be offering something extra-special, but the truth is this is what we do every day at Uncommon Ground. We focus our purchasing on local farmers who produce high-quality proteins, vegetables, and fruits, while also supporting local artisans who make amazing breads, cheese, beer, liquor, etc. Highlights would be our local greens salad with fresh Klug Farm strawberries, Gunthorp Farm bacon-crusted chicken breast, and warm Klug Farm blueberry bread pudding.

Where did you get your ingredients?
I have my favorite farmers and artisans, but I am always on the look-out for new ones who are doing something uncommon.  For this menu, we will be featuring Klug and Gunthorp farms, Capriole & Cedar Grove cheese, and uncommon ground’s own certified organic rooftop farm to name a few.
What are the challenges to cooking this time of year?

Sourcing local products has been amazingly easy this year!  Due to unseasonably warm weather, I have local asparagus, ramps, spring onions, and strawberries already on our menu.  We usually don’t get these treats until May at the earliest. Our rooftop farm hasalready been providing us an array of lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley, chives, mint, sorrel, mustard greens since mid march, and much more is on the way–radishes, beets, peas, carrots.  We also grow our own sunflower sprouts and micro-greens.

What do you hope diners will take away from your Earth Dinner event?
We hope that our diners will realize how delicious and pleasurable it is to eat local and seasonal –food at the peak of flavor, freshness and nutrition, without harmful chemicals, and how important it is for all of us to support our local producers to create a healthier and safer food system.
What do you hope to gain from participating in the Earth Dinner program?
Hopefully we can introduce new diners to Uncommon Ground and that they become regular guests of our independent family-owned, local, seasonal restaurant right here in Wrigleyville.
How have you benefited from your membership with Chefs Collaborative?
Uncommon Ground is a recent member of Chefs Collaborative.  We are just tuning in to  the national connection that Chefs Collaborative provides and the potential for education & awareness of issues that chefs face on food sustainability all over the country.