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The Good Food Fight

by Kristin Vukovic

A new restaurant aims to help diners reduce their carbon footprints, one delicious meal at a time

Minnesota’s Twin Cities are quickly becoming a culinary hotbed, introducing diners to creative takes on classic cuisines and innovative restaurant concepts with a socially conscious bent. Fig + Farro, located in the heart of Minneapolis’ trendy Uptown neighborhood, opened its doors in January 2018 with the aim to make it easier for diners to reduce their carbon footprints, one meal at a time.

Fig + Farro cofounders Michelle Courtright and Thomas Dambrine wanted to educate diners about the relationship between food production and climate change. According to recent research from the University of Oxford, widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would cut global food-related emissions by 63 percent. Considering that a United Nations FAO study found that animal production accounts for more greenhouse gases than all cars, trucks, boats and planes on the planet combined, a far-reaching vegetarian movement could significantly curtail global warming. Fig + Farro aims to make a difference. “We are not preachy, we are not judgmental,” Dambrine says. “We really don’t want to be the place where only vegetarians or vegans go—we want to be for everyone.”

FAR RIGHT: Fig + Farro cofounder Thomas Dambrine

Born in the Lorraine region of France, Dambrine oversaw the organic bakery café chain, Le Pain Quotidien, in his home country. “When I joined Le Pain Quotidien, being able to work alongside the founder, that really changed the way I do business and the way I approach life,” Dambrine says. Fig + Farro has a collaborative approach and adheres to a management style called “open-book management” where everyone contributes to the financial health of the restaurant, and 50 percent of the bottom line is redistributed to the staff.

Fig + Farro’s plant-based dishes, some inspired by family recipes, originate from around the globe. “Shakshuka is a dish from the Middle East—Michelle’s husband, Bazak, who is from Israel, has had that recipe in his family. It’s so special because they also make it at home,” Dambrine says. The dinner menu is divided into sections: “from the dirt,” “from the woods,” “from the desert” and “from the tundra.” Hen of the Woods pâté, saag curried spinach, Moroccan stew with couscous and vegan Swedish meatballs are just a few international inspirations alongside homegrown signature dishes including Viking beet hand-pie with sheep’s milk feta.

The restaurant is designed to be environmentally conscious, from the use of reclaimed materials to implementing sustainable practices. Long communal tables and vintage rugs create a homey ambiance. The retail store is stocked with artisanal ingredients used in the restaurant (including, of course, fig jam) and a curation of eco-friendly products. A percentage of the retail proceeds go to the Fig Foundation, which supports the educational efforts of plant-based eating and climate change awareness to kids and young adults. Who knew fig jam could help fight climate change? figandfarro.com

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