First LACMA’s Urban Light installation went “green” with energy-saving LED bulbs. Now Ray’s and Stark Bar has a new menu and practices focused on the environment and animal welfare.

Ray’s executive chef Fernando Darin, who’s been at the helm since early 2016, embraced a more plant-based diet a few years ago (he still eats meat), and he sees the changes as a natural extension of that.

“I started to think about ingredients … and animals with a little bit more care,” Darin says.

When he came on board, Darin helped revamp the small organic garden on-site that produces flowers and greens for Ray’s garnishes and dishes year-round. To help combat food waste, the restaurant now uses leftover food as garden compost or for crafting dog diners’ dishes for its Barky Brunch.

Ray’s already was using organic produce when possible, as well as organic eggs, but Darin’s passion for food care and consciousness inspired more choices for the newly updated menu.

The organic garden at LACMA; Credit: Ray's and Stark Bar

The organic garden at LACMA; Credit: Ray's and Stark Bar

“I want to give people a little more options and knowledge,” Darin says. “People don’t really pay attention or know where their meat comes from.”

To that end, the restaurant’s seasonal menu (a mixture of new and updated dishes) now lists the origin of every animal protein. Some of the meat comes from farms Ray’s was already using; in some cases Darin switched things up to better align with his food philosophies. A few supplier choices may raise questions, but Darin stands behind them.

Chef Fernando Darin; Credit: Ray's and Stark Bar

Chef Fernando Darin; Credit: Ray's and Stark Bar

Ray’s serves grass-fed lamb from Anderson Ranch, while the beef for its burger is from Snake River Farms and fed some grain. Grass-fed beef demand has grown 25 to 30 percent annually in the last decade, because research shows it can be more nutritious and humane, but Darin says he considers more than an animal’s diet.

“We go by how they treat the animals, and [Snake River Farms] have a very humane treatment of the cattle,” Darin says, noting not all grass-fed cows are well treated.

Ray’s Atlantic salmon is sourced from Skuna Bay Salmon, a farmed-fish operation that Darin finds superior and eco-conscious. Some people embrace farmed fish as sustainable and a way to combat overfishing, while others shun it due to research that shows unnatural conditions and feed contribute to unhealthy fish. If there is such a thing as better farmed fish, Skuna Bay strives for that with a “natural ocean environment” off the coast of Vancouver Island and classification as a “good alternative” from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

“They raise them in a controlled environment but in the right conditions,” says Darin, who understands the concerns about farmed fish. “The taste and texture is awesome and the fish looks really healthy.”

The tuna on Ray’s menu is wild bigeye tuna from Hawaii.

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