Crystal DeLongpré — “Chef Pink” to most — has an ambitious order to fill at the newly opened Bacon & Brine, which she co-owns with her wife, Courtney Rae DeLongpré.
Their goal is simple: To serve meals made from organically fed pigs and chickens hand raised on farms within a 10-mile radius of their Solvang restaurant at 1618 Copenhagen Drive.
They want to do it at prices everyone can afford — especially the working families that till the soils that grow the produce that feeds the poultry and swine that wind up on plates.
And with Bacon & Brine, the owners and their staff walk the talk by cooking only with “hyperlocal” produce and meat.
This 100-percent organic and local method is not the most cost efficient method for a restaurant, but Chef Pink is adamant: “I’m bummed by the divide between people who can afford to eat healthy and organic, and those who cannot. Most people who are picking the organic food cannot afford to eat it,” she said.
“In hospitality, we have a responsibility to be voice of change.”
Residents of the Santa Ynez Valley and beyond have provided Bacon & Brine with a loyal clientele since its doors opened on Aug. 21.
“We have had great community support,” Chef Pink said. The couple’s previous eatery — a tiny space limited to takeout panini-style sandwiches — closed early this year.
Now, with 15 employees, Bacon & Brine means long hours and “crazy work,” she said.
“This is a lot harder, business-wise, than at a small, to-go shop. It would also be easier and more cost effective to buy commercial meats.”
But Chef Pink and Courtney Rae DeLongpré — the “brine” half of Bacon & Brine — are committed to their passion.
For them, it comes down to core values. “Doing the right thing means more than anything else,” she noted.
A big part of doing the right thing means focusing on getting children to learn about eating healthy. Chef Pink and Courtney Rae DeLongpré have a 7-year- old daughter, Hazel, who is admittedly a big impetus for their focus on healthy food that even youngsters favor.
“Kids should eat well, and we have a good following from parents because of that belief,” Chef Pink said.
Chef Pink is thrilled to be able to put food on plates again after spending most of her life learning about cuisine. She started in Los Angeles, and then worked in restaurants in Paris, Santa Barbara, Scotland, the Caribbean, the San Francisco Bay area and New York City before relocating to the Central Coast.
“I tried to get as much exposure as I could,” she explained.
Why open an eatery based on pork instead of, say, beef? Two reasons: The drought, which has made raising grass-fed cattle nearly a losing proposition, and because “pork was hitting its stride as the world became obsessed with bacon,” she said.
Hand in hand with her desire to serve only organic, farm-raised animals and produce is Chef Pink’s desire to not waste a single ounce of food.
Bacon & Brine practices “whole animal usage,” which makes for a very crowded kitchen when she and her prep crew are cutting up a porker into the typical per-pig yield of 22 to 25 pork chops and various other cuts.
“We have big ambition, and little space,” she laughed. “This is small for ‘whole-animal’ work.” Using the whole animal means she and her crew only discard about half an ounce of the total weight of a pig — what amounts to the spinal cord, she said.
Bacon & Brine goes through two to three pigs in a typical week, said Chef Pink, who sources meat and produce from three local farms: Shadow Creek Ranch, Finley Farms and Roots Organic Farm.
All of the restaurant’s meats are brined to enhance flavor, but more importantly, for the brines’ probiotic properties. Courtney Rae DeLongpré, said Chef Pink, is “very into holistic food, and healing through food. This process of healing helps the body process the fatty meats, and makes for a healthier meal.”
Bacon & Brine serves a house kombucha, the fermented green or black tea that is hailed for aiding in digestion of rich foods.
They plan to grow their concept of healthy food into a business proposition “that we can take to other cities to help other businesses get a model, and so that there’s more than only a handful of people doing the right thing” when it comes to eating organic at a down-to- earth price,” Chef Pink explained.
“Because you can be profitable.”