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Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) opened the first Big Bowl in 1992, one of the first restaurants focused around the meal-in-a-bowl concept. Th.. read moree original menu was not all Asian and included items such as chili mac, hummus, and smoked whitefish. The most popular dishes proved to be Thai and Chinese, and the focus of the menu shifted. When Asian food expert Bruce Cost joined the Big Bowl team, he brought authenticity to the menu, recipes and food culture. In 2001, LEYE sold the concept to Brinker International. Some four years later when Brinker began selling its "emerging brands," including Big Bowl, LEYE saw an opportunity to take Big Bowl to the next level and repurchased the restaurants. Under the direction of Dan McGowan, president of Big Bowl and LEYE’s Asian division, the concept began a new journey, one driven by five key words: eco-friendly, sustainability, natural, organic and local. Big Bowl became one of the first multi-unit restaurants in the country to embrace earth-friendly practices, from purchasing seasonal produce and heirloom pork to shifting to recycled paper products and uniforms made of recycled plastic bottles. A synopsis of the evolution: The Menu Using the freshest and highest quality ingredients and starting from scratch are the only ways to authentically prepare Asian cuisine. Big Bowl roasts its own, peanuts, chiles and spices, which are ground daily to prepare a variety of curries. Fragrant jasmine rice, Shaoxing wine, first-press peanut oil, quality brewed soy sauce and artisan wheat noodles are all a part of the authentic Big Bowl pantry. Naturally raised chicken and beef as well as sustainable and responsibly caught seafood are now staples on the menu. The restaurants all serve fair and direct trade coffee and organic teas. Organic and fair trade wines are also offered. With Executive Chef Marc Bernard at the helm, stronger ties are being established with local farmers to ensure that the Big Bowl menu continues to feature the freshest products. Operations Big Bowl took an unprecedented industry stand in 2007 and banned bottled water, serving instead tap water through a triple filtration system as a way to reduce waste in landfills. Big Bowl is the first restaurant company to enter into a legally binding contract with the Chicago Climate Exchange to reduce its carbon footprint by 100 percent and commit a $10,000 contribution annually to energy conservation resources. In another eco-friendly effort, the restaurant picks up valet parking for hybrid cars and provides bike racks for guests who use the good energy to get to Big Bowl. Community Big Bowl is committed to purchasing locally as much as possible but also supports organizations that make the community a better place, from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to the Organic School Project that teaches elementary students about healthy food and sustainability. Big Bowl has undergone immense changes since serving its firsts guests in 1992. In this new decade, Big Bowl will continue to blaze a trail directed by sustainability, natural and organic products, eco-friendly practices and efforts that support the local community.
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