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Cafe Carmo brings more to the table than just good cuisine. This bio-friendly restaurant focuses on its ability to source its produce locally, while also giving back to the environment through composting and using recyclable products. Executive Chef and Owner Dana Honn’s mission is to show not only customers but people everywhere that contributing to the environment does not necessarily mean sacrificing quality for convenience. The message of going green and shopping locally is spreading more rapidly in New Orleans now thanks to Mr. Honn.
Cafe Carmo focuses on sourcing and composting food locally to benefit the New Orleans community as well as bringing awareness to the history of tropical cuisine. This innovation emerged from Dana and Christina Honn’s life in Brazil and traveling around South and Central America, where they realized that fresh food was affordable. Following this, Dana and Christina brought South America to New Orleans, Louisiana. The Honns first started a catering business, and in 2010, founded Carmo, where they brought the affordable, fresh mindset of the tropics to Lousiana!
The mission behind Cafe Carmo is meaningful to Dana and Christina, their employees, and the New Orleans community. The mission of Carmo starts with an “origin to table” mindset. In which, through the celebration and creation of tropical cuisine from local vendors, Carmo strives to bring awareness to the history that tropical food has on the world and the impact that locally sourcing and compositing food has on the environment. This activity directly impacts Goal 12 "Responsible Consumption and Production;" by sourcing food through local vendors, the owners of Carmo are promoting a safer food supply and helping the New Orleans community. In addition to this, any organic waste from the restaurant is then composted and converted into soil for their rooftop garden! The produce from the garden is then used for the restaurant, thus creating a cycle of sustainably reducing waste.
By offering tropical cuisine, Dana is allowing New Orleans natives to experience a taste of how it feels to live in a different country and experience the benefits and the struggles of living there. In the interview, Dana Honn mentions that “equatorial zones provide 80% to 90% of the food originates from the world plate” and that once people begin caring, positive change can begin to take place.
Dana moved to Brazil with his wife where he experienced food and culture like never before. He was inspired by the style and culture which caused him to dig deeper into it. He could tell that the restaurant genuinely took pride in their food and was in it for more than just the money. He later moved to San Francisco where he then tried to open his own restaurant to create the same atmosphere as in Brazil. As months went by he could tell that San Francisco just wasn’t the right location for his restaurant. He and his wife did a lot of research to figure out where to relocate in order to make the best impact and create a wonderful culture for customers to experience. That's when they found the great city of New Orleans and made the decision to move there.
Cafe Carmo’s mission has directly benefited the restaurant, the local community, and the environment surrounding it. One benefit resulting from the mission is the loyal relationship the restaurant has with customers. When speaking of this, Dana states that “I would say that a good percentage of them really do care about the mission; they see the mission and they’ve seen the evolution of the place and they feel like they have some ownership in it.” This strong bond allows for customers to be vocal with their thoughts and opinions, making it easier to improve Carmo.
Cafe Carmo has had an extremely positive impact on the ecological footprint left on society. From the start, the restaurant has attempted to have as small of a footprint as possible, meaning that composting and recycling began in the starting stages. Dana mentioned that composting and recycling “were baked into the business from the beginning” making them a leader in the New Orleans community.
Cafe Carmo has had the greatest impact on the environment through its efforts of composting and recycling. Being a role model in the community for this, Dana is usually called upon to publicly speak on the issues involved with the effect that businesses have on the environment. Even though Carmo hasn't achieved zero waste yet, they have made a significant effort in 11 years. Dana mentioned that 12 years ago it felt impossible to find local producers for compostable products, but he mentions that after achieving those things “the community looks to us (Carmo) to answer questions.”
Cafe Carmo’s attempt in reducing its ecological footprint has created many benefits for both customers and employees. Upon hiring, Dana doesn’t usually seek out employers with eco-friendly desires. Although, once they begin to work for him and see the meaning behind his mission, they truly begin to understand the reasoning behind reducing your ecological footprint. In understanding the mission, it results in them having a sense of pride in the restaurant they work at. This allows the opportunity to create long-term, loyal, and sustainable employees.
Aside from the employees, there are also ways this is beneficial for the customers. Dana states that he feels a decent percentage of his customers return because they both see and care about the mission and evolution of his business. He feels that when people are under the impression that you’re doing the right thing, it increases the likelihood of them returning.
One of Cafe Carmo’s main goals towards reducing its ecological footprint is producing low waste. Being able to produce low waste results in reasonable quantities at more reasonable prices. This is yet another way to boost the loyalty factor in returning customers. By increasing customer loyalty, Cafe Carmo has a steady inflow of business. It also can create buzz towards the business as loyal employees and customers share their mission and experience with others.
Dana's success with Cafe Carmo’s mission is seen by both customers and employees. The use of composting leftovers and other compostable items is just one example of how they strive to eventually reach zero waste. He then mentioned how not using plastics in things such as to-go boxes of straws can also lead to better health benefits that people don’t normally take into consideration. There are toxins in the plastics that are used in these boxes that can seep into the food, especially if customers reheat the leftovers in these boxes. Also, locally sourcing their produce and fish helps out the local markets and benefits other businesses around the New Orleans area. Dana also sources locally by driving to Montegut, LA on a weekly basis to pick up the fish that he cooks in his restaurant, which is about an hour and twenty-minute drive just one way. Although Cafe Carmo is able to produce some of the freshest fish on the market in New Orleans, they are still able to undercut their competition with a price advantage. Mr. Honn then explained to us that he is able to sell fresh produce such as fish at such a great price because he serves the whole fish. Once the fillets are removed, they sell a platter that is called a “Nose to Tail Fin platter” that is commonly known to sell out every night. By Cafe Carmo doing this, they are also lowering their waist problem and fulfilling economic quandaries, that is how do they sell the best food for the best price.
Dana Honn, Executive Chef and Owner/Founder
Cafe Carmo is a tropical restaurant that focuses on sourcing and composting food locally to benefit the New Orleans community and the environment surrounding it. Being a tropical restaurant, Carmo focuses on serving items from equatorial zones. Chef and Owner, Dana Honn, mentioned in an interview that 80% to 90% of food from the world plate originates from equatorial zones. Carmo’s focus is an “origin to table” mindset, meaning that through the celebration of tropical cuisine, as well as local sourcing and composting the food served, Carmo can bring awareness to the struggles and history of tropical cuisine, and the impact that it has on communities and the world. Once people begin to care, change begins to take place.