17 March, 2016
Today Jeana and David, the owners of Hot Lips Pizza in Portland, came to visit Persephone Farm. It was a treat to have these fine food friends come and share an afternoon with us. A treat in more ways than one: Jeana and David brought pizza, which our crew devoured on their afternoon break. Yum! One of the pies featured a squash base made from winter squash grown here, and one featured kale grown here as a topping.
As we walked the fields, we soaked up some brilliant spring sunshine and grazed on delicacies such as kale rapini, mustard flowers, and young fennel leaves. We talked about how Jeana and David purchased Hot Lips Pizza in the early '90s, and the challenges they faced entering this business. How could they maintain the quality of the fine food the chain was known for, yet distinguish themselves in an increasingly-competitive field, while making Hot Lips a truly great place to work?
They decided that local, seasonal produce was one way, and to date they are the restaurant we know of that makes the most impressive effort to procure as many ingredients as possible from as close as possible. This requires quite a juggling act, with many producers, and a lot of creativity on the menu.
They also learned about a philosophy called The Natural Step (http://www.thenaturalstep.org/), which helped them ask (and answer) questions about how to build a more sustainable business, such as: How much energy does it take to make a pizza? How many miles do these ingredients travel to our kitchen? How healthy is our work environment?
It means a lot to us at Persephone to work with a restaurant that is concerned with these questions. Hot Lips is not just a business for business' sake, but a creative endeavor where thoughtfulness, generosity and kindness abound.
Jeana and David also got to meet our crew which harvests and prepares their orders. We talked about the upcoming challenges of increasing labor costs (new paid sick leave legislation and minimum wage hikes, and for Hot Lips, the Affordable Care Act). All of us want to compensate our employees well and make it possible for them to take good care of their families. All of us know we must balance these increased costs with greater efficiencies and some price hikes. Creativity will continue to be at a premium. With businesses like Hot Lips Pizza around, there will be no shortage of inspiration.