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Photos: Fig + Farro

Restaurateur promotes plants to save the planet

Fig + Farro aims to lessen demand for meat and educate customers

Thomas Dambrine says eating less meat is one solution to the problem of climate change.

In January, the operator is scheduled to open Fig + Farro, a plant-based restaurant in Minneapolis that he hopes will help educate customers young and old about the impact food choices have on the planet, including the heavy carbon footprint left by meat production.

“The food we eat directly impacts our earth,” said Dambrine, who is originally from France, previously worked for Dairy Queen’s international division, and helped oversee the growth of Le Pain Quotidien in his home country. He also helped start the Bean Sprouts Café chain and has worked with the Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization Appetite for Change.

On the menu at Fig + Farro will be Spinach Saag, among other vegetarian dishes.

Dambrine isn’t vegetarian, but he does say reducing demand for meat will be a force for change. He cited a United Nations study that found that animal production accounts for more greenhouse gases than all cars, trucks, boats and airplanes. The study estimated that 30 percent of the world’s land mass is devoted to producing meat, dairy and eggs.

The menu at 150-seat Fig + Farro aims for vegetarian comfort food and accessibility, with dishes like wood-fired goat cheese with elderberry compote and dark rye bread, and walnut loaf with roasted broccoli. Prices will range from $15 to $17 at lunch, and $20 to $25 at dinner.

The full-service restaurant will also serve mostly wine and beer on tap, rather than bottles, to further reduce its carbon footprint. Produce used will be local, from within about 150 miles, and organic when possible.

Dambrine also hopes to send a message to children that meat doesn’t always have to be the center of a meal. He plans to launch a nonprofit organization called the Fig Foundation that will support educational efforts around plant-based eating and climate change awareness.

The restaurant will be family friendly, with a wooden treehouse in the dining room that kids can climb and explore while the adults eat. Planted throughout the treehouse are educational tidbits about eating more plants and fewer animals.

Dambrine (left) said Fig + Farro’s employment structure will also be designed for sustainability.

Almost all staff will be full-time with benefits, and they will be cross-trained so the restaurant can provide a full week’s schedule. Pay will start at $15 per hour as the minimum wage, and all workers will be allowed to participate in profit sharing, he said.

Dambrine and co-founder Michelle Courtright are building the concept for growth, but first the goal is to create delicious alternatives to a meat-based diet.

“I don’t like the word ‘educational’ because it sounds preachy,” Dambrine said. “But we want to give more options to people who are looking for a delicious way to fight climate change.”

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