Way Out Front on Trans Fats
Vegetable oils, grape-seed oil, avocado oil-but they either get really pricey or they start imparting flavors. You can't use something like olive oil because its burn point is too low. Although it's great for sautéing and stuff, you need to have that kind of heat to fry properly so it sears on the outside and it's cooked all the way through.
How did it happen that so many restaurants in Tiburon agreed to this?
Everybody just jumped on the bandwagon. Stephen Joseph, a local attorney who filed lawsuits against McDonald's and Kraft over using trans fats-he was the one that went out and got it rolling. The rice-oil people brought in some samples. Some of the local restaurant people asked us how we liked it before they tried it. But there was never a meeting where all the restaurants got together and said, "Let's do this." If so, it'd be the first time that many restaurant people had agreed on anything. It's not a law. It's just a policy.
Why do you think restaurant owners in other cities are dragging their heels?
I think it's just human nature; people are afraid of change. I know when we went through the no-smoking stuff, there were a lot of people in the restaurant business who said it was going to be the end of bars. And it just simply didn't happen. People adjust. It'll be normal in five years, like it is now with smoking.
Some people argue that going off trans fats is more complicated than just changing your oil.
Yeah, you have to go further than the first layer. Some products like frozen french fries are already partially cooked when they're frozen. That first processor, you've got to make sure they're not using trans fats, too; otherwise, you're lying to the customers. It's not a big deal, though-it's just something else you have to do. It's certainly easier than making sure all the seafood you serve is fresh.
Looking back, are you satisfied with the change?
Yeah, as business entrepreneurs, there is a responsibility to tell people what you're serving them if you're going to do something that isn't healthy. Restaurants have to be able to stay up with trends in healthier eating. It is more expensive, but to stay competitive in the restaurant business, you have to do that. Price gets people in, but quality gets them to come back.