Moving Beyond Green


In the days before I first opened Chaco Canyon in 2003, I found myself shopping for the last items we needed to be ready.

I came to the section with disposable utensils and paused for some time. This was in the dark ages before compostable was an option so we’re talking rigid plastic, single-use utensils.  I just couldn’t do it, and made a hurried trip to Goodwill to stock up on silverware to hand out to people until I could come up with a better idea.

A funny thing happened as we pondered a better plan: the ad-hoc one worked great for everyone.  Nine out of ten customers, when offered the option of a piece of silverware, said that they had a fork or spoon in the car or office, and they didn’t need anything.  Those that took them tended to come back and return their fork (great for retention), and most everyone understood that – while this was an admittedly weird system – they appreciated not feeling guilty for using a manufactured item from a far-flung country once and then tossing it into the waste stream.

Put this system side by side with the “normal” thing to do in the restaurant industry: putting a disposable fork, spoon and napkin (and knife and chopsticks….) in every bag, just to make sure everyone absolutely gets utensils.  Taking the time to ask everyone who gets something to go, and explaining that they can actually take utensils (or bamboo chopsticks) takes a lot more time and effort, but one of the main differentiators between a business that is “green” and one that has in its mission to have Zero Impact on the planet someday.

We’ve saved over a half million single-use utensils from production and disposal just by making this simple choice – that’s a good start.

Choosing not to have disposable utensils, and dozens of other ‘unusual’ behaviors and choices we make every day at Chaco Canyon, are what makes us unique and special.  It’s why we won the 2013 Green Washington Award and the 2014 Recycler of the Year Award for small businesses, as well as many other accolades and awards throughout the years.


The sustainability and zero impact ethos permeate the café, from myself to the staff, to our customers and out into the city.  One of our staff recently contacted me to let me know that, as part of a bridal planning committee, she was assigned to buy a bunch of one-time use Solo cups for the reception.   “The environmentalist in me cringed”, she stated, and then asked if Chaco could buy some re-usable cups for her to bring to the wedding, and then put them into use at the cafes afterwards as water cups.  Of course we can!  I love our staff.

Working for a sustainable planet has changed over the last 30 years.  Recycling and composting are no longer the hallmark of environmentalism; they are the base expectation to start from.  Thanks to smart local legislation around Styrofoam and plastic bags, Seattle is a true leader in the movement for a sustainable planet.  We as a community should keep pushing for more, better, and weirder solutions to loving our planet.  What are you doing in your house?


Chris Maykut
Proud Owner
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes

Chaco CanyonMoving Beyond Green
Read more

Eat Your Scraps: The Case for Eating the Whole Vegetable

In the sociology class I took in college, my professor shared some research with us that had been conducted on people’s trash cans:

what’s in them, and what our trash can say about our income and our social identities. One of the statistics he shared from this study always stuck with me: the amount that people cut off the ends of their asparagus directly correlates to their income levels. For years, I have lightheartedly recalled this piece of information every time I prepare asparagus—I wonder what the trash spies will think of this one!—but it has also caused me to see my food differently: pieces and parts of fruits and vegetables that I consider scraps can be valuable sources of nutrition, or at least sustenance.

You love peas, but do you love pea vines?

You love peas, but do you love pea vines?

In a recent CSA box, I pulled out an item that was familiar to my eyes but new to my menu: leek scapes. I see these tall, green, hearty, sometimes flower-topped spears in sidewalk gardens and P-Patches all around Seattle and recognize each one as a sign that there are delicious homegrown alliums of some kind hiding beneath the surface of that soil. I had never considered its edibility before, only its indication of edible food below. I was pleasantly surprised to taste its mild and tender green skin and blossom, and I was even more excited by the knowledge that this was all hidden within what I had previously considered a food scrap.

These leek scapes inspired a scrap-saving crusade in my kitchen. I used to compost the green ends of the leek itself, now I cook the whole thing. Broccoli stems? They’re delicious sautéed or prepared just like the florets (especially when you peel them). That stringy brown stuff on the top of corn? Dry it and make a potassium-rich tea out of it! Beet, carrot, and broccoli greens are ideal for salads, pesto-making, or any other way you normally use hearty greens. The greenish flesh of the watermelon (before the rind) tastes just like a cucumber—and the rind itself is edible and nutrient-dense too! Just squirt some lime juice on it, or pickle it for best flavor. And one of the easiest ways to start using your food scraps is to start a broth bag:  save your onion skins, garlic remnants, celery butts, carrot shavings, and herb stems and simmer them with water to make a delicious fresh vegetable broth.

Trying to do away with vegetable “scraps” has left me feeling not only financially savvy (more bang for my buck!), but also like I’m properly honoring the time, space, and energy that went into growing my food, which makes my meals that much more satisfying. Give your scraps a second look next time you reach for the compost!

Cafe Manager
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe & Bakery, Greenwood

Chaco CanyonEat Your Scraps: The Case for Eating the Whole Vegetable
Read more

Soups Out for Summer- Gazpacho is in!



Schools out, the heat’s on, and the tomatoes are ripe.

Okay, it’s actually been a rather cool summer, but those tomatoes will ripen up any day now. So what are you waiting for? Rinse your blender of frozen smoothie- or cobwebs- and get ready for this tasty summer time soup.

For this recipe, you will need a highspeed blender (i.e. Vitamix) and a juicer. If you don’t have a juicer for the celery juice, experiment with using a cup of chopped celery instead. This will change the consistency of the soup a bit, but you are the chef! You can do it. I believe in you.

Alternatively, you could head to the closest Chaco with your stalks of celery and we will juice it for you. 🙂 We won’t be offering this soup in the cafe this summer, the least we can do is juice some celery to make your foodie dreams come true!


Puree in highspeed blender:

2 1/2# Heirloom Tomatoes

3 c celery juice

¼ c lemon juice

1 T salt

2 cloves garlic

½ red onion

After you have blended all of the ingredients together, drizzle in 4 Tbs olive oil while the blender is on med-low.

Once you have your soup base, add the following:

2 heirloom tomatoes, ½” dice
1-2 cucumbers, deseeded, 1/2″ dice

I find the easiest way to deseed my cucumber is to cut it in half, lengthwise. Then I take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. You can also quarter the cucumber, lengthwise, and fillet the seeds with a knife.

For a finishing touch, add your own spice. Mint, cayenne, or black pepper to taste would all make great additions.

This recipe yields about 16 cups. I recommend a half batch unless you’re planning a summertime party.

Until next time!

Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Kitchen

Chaco CanyonSoups Out for Summer- Gazpacho is in!
Read more

Why I Work To Make Clean Food Accessible To My Community

Chris Maykut and his daughter took fresh squeezed orange juice to her school and compared it with bottled brands for a little taste testing and nutritional experiment.

Are you formulating a hypothesis yet?

As a father of two public school kids, I have been able to witness firsthand what happens in the lunchroom of my children’s schools. As a foodie I’ve been surprised, disappointed and appalled.   This isn’t going to turn into a rant about what is served – I get the budget constraints and what the lunch staff has to work with. What shocks me is what kids bring from home and worse, the lack of knowledge and – honestly – concern for basic nutrition. Lots of Lunchables, candy, pasteurized juice and juice-like products. It’s pretty disappointing.

Fast forward to this year’s Science Fair, where I finally convinced my daughter, Raina, to engage in a nutritional science experiment.  She chose to compare three versions of orange juice in terms of (a) nutritional content and (b) blind taste preference.  She decided to examine variables between fresh organic orange juice from Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Odwalla pasteurized 100% orange juice, and…. the incomparable “Sunny D”.

While the nutritional analysis is fairly predictable, the tasting was what really stood out to me.  We conducted a blind taste test in her 4th Grade classroom at Greenwood Elementary a couple weeks before the science fair.  We predicted there would be a fairly even preference distribution throughout her twenty-five classmates, since the three options are fairly distinct from each other as far as sweetness, freshness, and flavor.  That turned out to be a very optimistic prediction.

Survey Results

Survey Says…

Not Freshly Squeezed

Sunny D

I knew things were going to go off the rails when the first taster tried the fresh, organic orange juice from Chaco. She scrunched up her face, spat the juice in a trash can, and blurted out “what the heck is that?” Wow. Twenty-two of twenty-five students voted Sunny D (option C on the example slips pictured) as their favorite. Only one student chose the fresh juice as their favorite and only three others even chose it as second.

What was even more surprising to me was the blind tasting at the Science Fair itself. While it was good that about 95% of adults preferred fresh, still 90% of students preferred Sunny D. The really disappointing reality was revealed in speaking to the parents themselves; while they generally preferred fresh, there was massive misconception about Sunny D itself.  Many thought that it’s “mostly juice” or has “good nutritive properties” and “some wholesome ingredients”. Aargh!

We can purchase a gallon of Sunny D here in Seattle for 99 cents – I wasn’t clear I could buy water for that price.  It’s a product that has absolutely no redeeming qualities, yet their marketing has established them as a “not bad” option for parents, while their formula is much more appealing to kids than real options.

The upshot: read ingredients and dedicate yourself to feeding your family good, wholesome food.  Fresh orange juice isn’t the best thing in the world for a healthy body, but Sunny D may be one of the worst.


Thoughts from the Owner at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes
Chris Maykut

Chaco CanyonWhy I Work To Make Clean Food Accessible To My Community
Read more

Weeds You Could Be Eating

Local plants that “invade” your garden beds but if harvested could nurture your bodies.

If you are from Seattle or if you have traversed Discovery Park during spring time you probably have been stung by Stinging Nettles. These annoying weeds that irritate your skin and cause a stinging sensation aren’t weeds at all but really a local edible plant. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are packed full of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and can be high in protein.
Although they can be eaten raw I wouldn’t advise it as a certain technique is required and failure to do so correctly will leave your tongue stinging. The sting is best removed by cooking them. Nettles are great in pestos, soups, sauces or in smoothies like we do seasonally in our Really Green Smoothie. Their leaves can also be dried to make a allergy fighting tea.
Lambs Quarter was our seasonal green in the Really Green Smoothie last year. Should we bring it back?

Lambs Quarter was our seasonal green in the Really Green Smoothie last year. Should we bring it back?

Now that you know about nettles you maybe wondering what other “weeds” you’ve been missing out on. Here’s a few other local weeds you could be eating.
Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) also known as Goosefoot, having nothing to do with hoofed or feathered creatures, is another wild plant that grows locally.  Well, I guess you could say each leaf is in the shape of a goose’s foot. Lambs quarters contain high amounts  vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and calcium.  They taste similarly to spinach and can be used the same in most recipes. You may seem them pop up late spring early summer.

The delicious salmonberry

Berries, berries, berries. Thimbleberry, salmonberry and blackberries are a few of the many local edible berries. Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis,  named so for their salmon coloring, bear fruit mid spring to early summer.  Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), not meant for transport, can be eaten as you pick or expect to use them for jam as they fall apart quickly. We have multiple types of blackberries in the region including; Himalaya, Evergreen, and Dewberry. Look for blackberries mid to late summer.  All these berries are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants play a large role in degenerative disease prevention such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few.  As with any foraging id advise to know the area. Often roadside berries are sprayed with harsh chemicals that you do not want to be ingesting.
Wrongful plant identification can lead to some nasty stomach issues and even death so don’t ingest unless you are 100% sure you have identified the right plant. A safer beginners route with some of the less easily identifiable plants maybe to purchase these from a local forager first.  We often purchase our wild edibles from Foraged and Found Edibles who you can find at the Queen Anne, University District, Ballard and West Seattle farmers markets.
There are so many PNW plants that are not only edible but delicious and nutrient dense. Next time your “weeding” your garden you might think twice about what you pull and what you keep.
Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, West Seattle
Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest by Eugene N. Kohloff
The Foragers Harvest by Samuel Thayer
Chaco CanyonWeeds You Could Be Eating
Read more

Phinney Ridge Association Annual Rainbow Hop, Saturday, June 4th

There is something decidedly romantic about metaphors that compare humans to the living environment, specifically plants. We both grow roots, have great sensitivity and resilience, and always large amounts of uniqueness and charm. Plants and humans thrive in similar conditions; we both like sunlight, oxygen, and—perhaps most importantly—diversity. One of the main tenants of permaculture is to use and value diversity. Permaculture practices (where an array of plants share the same soil and benefit from an exchange of nutrients) are far healthier and more productive than monoculture systems, showing us that plants thrive among the diversity.



2016 RainbowHop_Poster_opt


When the Phinney Neighborhood Association called me about participating in this year’s Rainbow Hop, I had no shortage of ideas for the event. Rainbow Hop is the PNA’s annual pride event, meant to be a day of celebrating diversity, sexuality, and identity.  So many food and plant metaphors came to mind when thinking about diversity, love, and growth; but I thought most about the lessons of diversity that plants can teach us. Not only is variety of the natural world inspiring in its own right, but the importance of diversity to each plant’s ability to thrive and succeed is profoundly human.

In the spirit of celebrating diversity, we’ll be hosting a planting event for the Rainbow Hop where we’re inviting children (and adults!) to create their own colorful collaged pot where they can then plant their own flower start. We’ll have a variety of options for flowers, and we’ll be encouraging every planter to transplant their seedling into the environment around them to contribute to the beautiful diversity of our ecosystem.

We’ll be partnering with our awesome neighbors at Recreative for the event. We’ll be using 100% recycled materials for the pots: recycled jars and vessels that we’ll then collage with donated recycled paper to create colorful and celebratory containers. Art has always been held at the center of personal expression, so we’re excited to give kids the opportunity to create for the Rainbow Hop. And while the event will hold a metaphorical meaning for me, it is, after all, for families and children. So we’ll try to avoid the sappy, as there will be enough dirt, glue, and shreds of paper to dirty any romantic metaphors.


Greenwood Bakery Cafe

Chaco CanyonPhinney Ridge Association Annual Rainbow Hop, Saturday, June 4th
Read more

Chaco Supported Agriculture

Sunday, June 5th is your last chance to sign up for Seattle Tilth’s CSA. Earlier this year Seattle Tilth’s Food Hub Manager asked Chaco Greenwood to become a CSA pick-up site and we were excited to accommodate. We’re glad to offer a space for interested community members to pick up their farm fresh produce. Check out Seattle Tilth’s website for more information on how you can become a member and support their incubator farms.

What is a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture is an incredible way to build capital for farmers at the beginning of the farm season. By purchasing your share of produce early in the season, farmers receive income at a time of year when they don’t yet have anything to sell. By purchasing a share of their output ahead of time, the farmer can purchase seeds to put in the ground that will eventually become your cornucopia of summertime- barring environmental disaster. Yes, investing in a CSA is an agreement of trust and will. You are signing up to go along with the roller coaster ride of Mother Nature. But this is exciting! This might mean one year green beans are a plenty and the tomatoes are juicy, or another year it’s mostly kale and cabbage. You just don’t know. We always hope for the best.

An exciting element to Seattle Tilth’s CSA is the support it builds for an aggregate of important community programing. A bulk of Tilth’s CSA contents comes from many different farmers at their Auburn incubator site, which is meant to support new, immigrant, or limited resource farmers. There is also produce grown by the Youth Garden Works program. Buying a share of Tilth’s CSA not only ensures fresh produce for you throughout the season, it also means jobs, growth, and development in our community and stewardship of the land.

Pick-up at our location will be Thursday afternoons (4-8 pm), from June to October. Most other questions can be answered at Tilth’s CSA website.

In lieu of Seattle Tilth and Food Hub photos which are plentiful on their website, here pictures from a recent tour I did in Europe. Farms are lovely all around the globe!

In lieu of Seattle Tilth and Food Hub photos which are plentiful on their website, here pictures from a recent tour I did in Europe. Farms are lovely all around the globe!

Rouen Farmer's Market

Rouen Farmer’s Market

Did you know at Chaco, our employees can also opt-in to support our local farmers? Through what we call Chaco Supported Agriculture, employees (only) can sign up for organic, weekly produce to be picked up directly at work. It offers us the ability to have purchasing power and buy produce from farmers through the Puget Sound Food Hub, even when it’s not what we’re cooking up in the kitchen. The Food Hub is a great non-profit, cooperatively run network that helps farms sell and distribute their goods through an aggregate format that allows for easier sales and distribution. The benefit to the farmer is selling directly to grocery stores, universities and restaurants like us, while we see that the benefit for us as consumers is fresher produce and knowing more about where our food is coming from.


Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe
Commissary Kitchen

Chaco CanyonChaco Supported Agriculture
Read more

Proudly Serving Happy Valley Sprouts

Microgreens are quite a buzzword these days but what ever happened to sprouts?

Now that its springtime, these warm, longer days are urging me to put on the gardening gloves and get out in the yard to plant some tiny pea plants, cilantro, and mustard greens. It’s hard not to clip these little greens and put them on my sandwich. While microgreens are a labor of love and dirt, sprouts can be as simple as an overnight jar on a counter- it’s a shame that so many people shun them from fear!


Like any raw food, sprouts can be prone to hazardous bacteria such as salmonella, e. coli, and listeria. However, these outbreaks are rare, and the outcome of sprouting is an endless list of health benefits that I encourage you to look into if you’re looking to get a little more mineral nutrition into your daily diet.


In our kitchen at Greenwood, we sprout buckwheat, lentils, fenugreek or other seeds for specials or events such as our Valentine’s Day Dinner. However 99% of our sprouts are clover sprouts from Happy Valley Sprouts in Bellingham.


house salad

Happy Valley Sprouts tests every batch of sprouts they produce; they have never had an incident of food borne illness or sprout recall in 25 years of business. They deliver to us directly, so there’s no middleman. We benefit from this direct from the farmer relationship by getting fresher sprouts for a better price (which we are able to pass on to customers). Our direct relationship allows us to call Happy Valley Sprouts whenever we need to adjust our orders depending on how quickly we’re going through sprouts, and they adjust their growing batches accordingly, which leads to a fresher product! Every week, Happy Valley Sprouts delivers their product in large flats, which we save and return, cutting down on packaging and plastic waste. They’re able to sanitize and reuse the flats multiple times. Yay for reusing!


If you’re wondering how you can get more sprouts in your diet, beyond daily Chaco consumption of course, try out the EasySprout Sprouter that we sell in the cafe. Sprouts are highly nutritious and easily digestible. Visit the International Sprout Growers Association for more information on varieties, history, and nutrition values.


If you’re unsure whether or not you have time for sprouting in your life, check out this video below to see how it’s done.

[su_youtube_advanced url=”” theme=”light”]


Happy Sprouting!

Chaco CanyonProudly Serving Happy Valley Sprouts
Read more

The Community Bowl Program; Why We Moved the Scale

In 2013, we began offering the Community Bowl at our University café location. The idea was to have a full sliding scale meal option at a suggested price, available for free once per day per customer. The sliding scale was adjusted this April, continuing as the same grain bowl, but now with a donation minimum between $2-9, above that is still considered a donation to the program.


daal bowl (3)

The Community Bowl was created as a nutrient dense bowl (rice, beans, carrot, cabbage, kale, garlic tahini, and toasted sunflower seeds) that would hold well- along with an orange or banana that theoretically could be saved for later*. It was created so that people without regular access to whole foods could get something healthy once a day, regardless of their ability to pay.

When you look at this program in a bubble, it was extremely effective. It is a healthy menu item at a busy café that was available for 3 years for free in part because it was subsidized by the community; there continued to be a lot of donations, and Chaco as a business was not losing money on the program. When you pop the bubble, and look at Chaco Canyon as a whole and what we are trying to create, this program looks quite different. We have a stated mission of having zero impact on the environment, and we balance every business decision with our people (including our community), the planet and our profits in mind. What it comes down to, is that this program on a daily basis confronted our desire to be sustainable. Every day, we would have people walk away from their tables or from the café after ordering a Community Bowl, which would then sit unattended or waiting to be picked up, and would be either not eaten at all or partly eaten in a bus tub.

Looking at the amount of food not being consumed and wasted daily, we needed to rethink this program. By assigning a real dollar value, we have given our customers a sense of personal value for the food we provide. We did not think $2 would be an unattainable height for most, though we knew some would no longer be able to use the program. We have seen the effects of this recent change and are still seeking a better answer.

Perhaps if more businesses began offering sliding scale options, more cultural norms would be established, and there would be less friction and hostility on the front lines of these interactions. As a society we need to acknowledge where we are not meeting the needs of our most vulnerable populations and work together to strengthen our communities. We at Chaco Canyon Café continue to create structures and space for this discussion every day.

*The community bowl at Chaco Canyon Cafe Bakery in Greenwood is our daal bowl and does not come with fruit.

Chaco CanyonThe Community Bowl Program; Why We Moved the Scale
Read more

Order your Thanksgiving Pie Today

Now Available Special Order Pies for Thanksgiving! All are vegan, and are available gluten-free upon request for no extra charge! Bring a decadent dessert you know you’ll be able to enjoy, and  treat your friends and family to a new experience – vegan baking is just as delicious!


Check out our different options here. For any 10″ pie, it will come served in a nice pie-tin, for which we require a $15 donation – drop it off at any location, and we’ll give you your money back on the spot.



Call in to any of our 3 locations to order!

Cheers, Enjoy.

In order Below: Pumpkin Pie, Blackberry Apple Pie & our Cranberry Ginger Pear Pie (not pictured here our Raw Pumpkin Spice Tart).

gfpumkinpie_whole1 blackberrypie_2 cranberry ginger pear pie


Chaco CanyonOrder your Thanksgiving Pie Today
Read more