CHICAGO — Chef Homaro Cantu invited Midwest Produce Expo attendees to look for giant leaps in the way food is grown and packaged.
“We need a moon shot,” he said Aug. 12. “Forget about making incremental changes within the system.”
Cantu provided each audience member with a white box containing cut lemons, yogurt, and a pill made of what he called the “miracle berry.” Directing attendees to put the pill on their tongues, Cantu then had them taste the items in the box. A protein in the West African miracle berry switches the way the tongue processes bitter taste, making lemons taste like lemonade and the yogurt to taste like cheesecake.
Cantu said the berry could open the door for new ways to cut sugar without cutting enjoyment of food.
In his 45-minute address, Cantu talked about the rapid advance in indoor growing that is a part of his Michelin-rated Moto Restaurant; the concept also will be featured in a coming business called Berrista. Cantu said he has secured enough capital for ten locations. The first Berrista is scheduled open in October.
“Berrista will literally have an orchard of miracle berries in its basement in a state-of-the art indoor farm,” he said.
The menu at Berrista Coffee will feature food to be consumed with a miracle berry pill, with just a fraction of the calories of sugar-infused pastries. He said the company controls 87% of the global supply of miracle berries.
“You have to feed (consumers) something that is delicious, something that is transformative, that tastes better than anything out there,” he said.
Once that mission is accomplished, Cantu said the next priority is growing that food in a way that is better for the environment and can create better jobs. That can transform the food industry, he said.
Several years ago, Cantu said he had empty office space in his restaurant and wondered if the space could be used to offset some produce costs. After expensive trial and error, he said indoor growing technology has become cheaper and allowed the company to produce microgreens.
“Eventually we wound up at a tipping point and the room was saving more money than it cost,” he said.
He predicts even greater advances in technology and reductions in cost for indoor growing, which could allow supermarkets to supply their own farmers markets and even make the technology accessible to consumers.
Growers could play a key role in supplying seeds for these indoor farms, he said.
“Microprocessors have undergone a billion-fold price performance increase since first being introduced and the same thing is going to happen to food.”