ALTERNATIVE PROTEIN eat like a bird
oppoSi Te: The sweet-and-sour crickets on the menu
at linger falls in line with the restaurant’s commitment
to sourcing and exploring sustainable proteins.
prepared under the guidance of chef de cuisine Emma Sanchez, leans toward local
Central Texas food.
“We started experimenting with insects a couple of years ago to introduce our
staff and guests to new culinary experiences,” says Sonya Coté, chef/owner. “We use
Merci Mercado sal de gusano—a gourmet edible worm salt—and chapulines. These
bug dishes appear on the menu on a rotating basis. Other insects we have been using
are mealworms and bee larvae. Having these offerings definitely sets us apart from
competitors and enables us to engage guests in conversations about food and farmers.”
“The insects are served both ground and whole, the latter showing up in fritters, on
salads or enrobed in chocolate,” Coté says.
tastes that linger
Founded by Justin Cucci in 2011, Denver’s Linger exhibits a focus on global street
foods. “Insects are central to many street food cultures around the world. It works
for Linger’s menu approach, and falls in line with our commitment to sourcing and
exploring sustainable proteins,” says Jeremy Kittelson, culinary director. “We mostly
work with crickets, black ants and grasshoppers, obtaining them from Wendy Lu
McGill at Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch [Denver].”
In the beginning, Kittelson admits, insects on the menu were a novelty. “Now, it’s
much more than that. No longer is it just about the fear factor. People are genuinely
excited to try the bugs. I don't know that anyone else in Denver is investing time into
creating dishes with edible insects.
“Our sweet-and-sour crickets are really popular. They’re prepared with fried
crickets, black ant rice, chapulines, tofu, Chinese sausage, charred broccoli, long beans
and black sesame in a sweet-and-sour sauce.”
going big on small
Following graduation from The Culinary Institute of America, Charlie Schaffer
worked closely with Alain Ducasse, Pedro Subijana and Lidia Bastianich before serving
as executive chef for the Patina Restaurant Group. Since 2009, he’s been partnering
with his wife Kathleen at Schaffer in Los Angeles, a party/event catering business that
likes to give clients a taste of the future.
“We’re fascinated with offering our customers and fans dishes that are cutting-
edge, and, clearly, insect protein is the newest frontier,” says Schaffer. “Our company
is constantly on the forefront of the next big thing. We are fans of crickets, especially in
the form of cricket powder, which can be easily introduced into a myriad of recipes. In
addition, we also create dishes featuring grasshoppers and ants.”
Noting that edible insects are easy to buy online, Schaffer says, “One of our favorite
sources is Exoterra [Sheridan, Wyoming]. In addition, specialty food stores such as
Whole Foods actually sell cricket powder as well as cricket chips, cricket bars and so on.”
Nevertheless, the world of mini-invertebrates is far from a regular item on most
shopping lists. To many Westerners, he admits, the idea of eating insects still has
shock value. To ease diners to the point of no hesitation, “we have to educate them.
fodder for the future
While some chefs are enthusiastic about eating
insects, they don’t all agree on how commonplace this
“We will definitely see insects featured more and more
in restaurants. As the culture and consciousness shifts
toward a more sustainable diet, we hope that will
translate to its use in the American home, as well,”
says Sonya Coté, chef/owner, Eden East, Austin, Texas.
Rick Lopez, executive chef, La Condesa, Austin, says
the American consumer will more than likely not
adapt to a steady diet featuring bugs. He foresees the
greatest amount of insect consumption coming from
avid travelers, those who have become inured to the
practice in other parts of the world.
While not attempting to predict just how popular edible
insects will become, Charlie Schaffer, partner, Schaffer,
Los Angeles, suggests that insect use will be strong as
an ingredient, but not necessarily the dominant item in
a given dish. He offers as comparison the way in which
corn and corn byproducts have infiltrated the American
food system during the past 40 years. In his view, the
process is inevitable as water supplies dwindle. One
gallon of water makes the same amount of protein as
2,000 gallons—if that one gallon is being used to raise
crickets instead of beef, he explains.
“Insects are also a great source of protein, calcium, iron,
omega fatty acids, dietary fiber and minerals,” he adds.