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Montana Grill goes eco-friendly.

Byline: Barbara M. Houle

COLUMN: TABLE HOPPIN'

Restaurateurs in the state were urged to join the green movement last week at a breakfast hosted by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association in Boston. Billionaire Ted Turner, celebrity chef Todd English and George McKerrow Jr., chief executive of Ted's Montana Grill, sat center stage. English was panel moderator for "The Green Restaurant Revolution."

The Turner Foundation is partially funding the National Restaurant Association's "Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability," launched last month to help eateries become more environmentally friendly.

Turner is chairman of Ted's Montana Grill which he and McKerrow (CEO) started in 2002 to save the American bison. Ted's Montana Grill, 400 Union St., Bay State Commons, Westboro, is one of the 55 restaurants in the chain. Turner and McKerrow ate lunch there after their Boston appearance. PR folks and Michael Oshman, founder of the Green Restaurant Association, which certifies green restaurants, were at their table.

Turner was catching a plane (his private jet), so we only had time to exchange a few words with him after he ate (bison burger sliders and crab cakes). McKerrow, on the other hand, filled us in about steps restaurants can take to go green. We won't go into the whole pitch, but McKerrow said Ted's Montana Grill is dedicated to eco-friendly operations, with a slogan of "Eat Great, Do Good." The restaurants use recycled paper menus, paper straws, to-go cups made from cornstarch, water-efficient toilets and biodegradable soap in restrooms.

Restaurants, big and small, can take a number of steps to go green, McKerrow said. He rattled off a list of things which included using energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, not serving bottled water and buying locally grown and produced food. We're all for that.

"The restaurant industry, one of the largest employers in the country, uses five times more energy than other retail businesses," he said, "and restaurants need to step up to the plate and become environmentally friendly."

And, talk about trash. The Green Restaurant Association estimates that a typical restaurant generates 100,000 pounds of garbage per location, per year.

Turner, according to McKerrow, is willing to put his money where his mouth is. "People listen to him," McKerrow said. "He's concerned about global warming and the environment. This is a guy who picks up trash on the street when he sees it."

He's also a guy who likes to watch the bison roam. Turner Enterprises manages more than 2 million acres throughout the country and a herd of more than 50,000 bison.

"Have you ever eaten bison?" McKerrow asked. Before we could open our mouth, he had flagged a waitress and ordered bison burger sliders with onion rings for us. We ended the interview when the food arrived, but we plan to see what local restaurants are doing to keep green. Serving green grub doesn't count.

Turner, 69, has an autobiography, "Call Me Ted," due out in the fall. He already has revealed that he doesn't kiss and tell because he doesn't want to embarrass his five children. And, he's on good terms with most of his ex-wives, he said.

* * *

The Massachusetts-based restaurant group Not Your Average Joe's opened its 16th location Monday at 291 Turnpike Road in Westboro.

Not Your Average Joe's has a neighborhood-friendly concept, according to General Manager Seth Caplan, who grew up in Worcester. "People keep wanting to come back," he said. The Westboro store is in space formerly occupied by Applebee's. It has been completely renovated and seats 185. A horseshoe bar accommodates 21; an outside covered patio has 10 tables.

Executive chef is Matt Sock. The restaurant officially opened at 5 p.m. Monday, but customers showed up at the door at 3 p.m., Caplan said. "They couldn't wait to get in." VIPs, including family and friends, received special invites before opening day. Monetary donations for the Westboro Food Pantry were accepted at that time.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. Call (508) 986-2350 for reservations. Car-hop "Joe-to-Go" service allows customers the convenience of curbside deliveries from the restaurant's take-out menu.

The restaurant touts its creative, casual cuisine described as contemporary, made-from-scratch comfort food. New menu additions, created by Chris Bodington, executive chef and VP of Culinary for the restaurant group, have more global flair, according to a company spokeswoman. Incredibly popular are the treats on the Sweet Petites menu, she said. Go to www.nyajoes.com/menu for more information.

Caplan, son of Nancy Jo Caplan of Worcester, and Louie Caplan of Webster, graduated from St. John's High School in Shrewsbury (class of '96) and Emerson College in Boston. Westboro is the third Not Your Average Joe's that he has opened since 2005. Not bad for a guy who started out in the business as a busboy for Legal Sea Foods in Boston.

* * *

Executive chef/owner Chris Rovezzi will have a martini dinner at 6 p.m. next Thursday at Rovezzi's Ristorante, 108 Grove St., Worcester. Call (508) 753-4511 for reservations.

Cost is $40 per person. The six-course menu will feature tapas-style Mediterranean dishes such as pan-flashed salmon accented with arugula and lemon vinaigrette, Rosemary skewered shrimp wrapped in pancetta served over Vidalia onion, fava beans and artichoke ragout accented with aged balsamico and braised oxtail marmalade over wild mushroom ravioli with five-herb salad.

For the record: Rovezzi said he's not in the process of moving to Shrewsbury Street - not for now, anyway. Hold that thought.

* * *

Bottle `N Cork will have an in-store tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at 197 Worcester St., North Grafton. Free to the public.

Wines made from Riesling grapes will be poured. Perfect summer sipping!

* * *

Zia Grill, 352 Shrewsbury St., Worcester, will sponsor a trip to Italy for cooking lessons, wine tasting and sightseeing Oct. 10-18.

Destinations: Sorrento, Capri and Amalfi, Naples and Rome. Three cooking lessons will be given at the Gambero Rosso Cooking School in Naples.

Diane Bercovitz, (508) 835-9224, is trip coordinator; e-mail: bercovitz@aol.com. Deadline for deposits is June 30.

* * *

Arby's has launched a national community fundraiser in restaurants throughout the country to raise money and awareness for youth-mentoring. Big Brothers Big Sisters in Central Massachusetts and Metrowest will benefit.

Customers who visit Arby's restaurants in Worcester (622 Park Ave.) and Auburn (406 Southbridge St.) through June 30 can donate $1 and sign a "Help Us Help Kids" pinup to hang on the wall. Proceeds go to the local Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., weather permitting, Big Brothers Big Sisters will hold a car wash ($5 suggested donation) at the Arby's in Worcester.

Reach into your wallet and lend a hand.

If you have a tidbit for this column, call (508) 793-9145. Send e-mail to bhoule@telegram.com.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Restaurateur George McKerrow Jr. at Ted's Montana Grill in Westboro. McKerrow is a partner with mogul Ted Turner. (2) Celebrating the opening of Not Your Average Joe's in Westboro are company vice president Chris Bodington, left, and Executive Chef Matt Sock; they are holding a Cedar Salmon Wrap with cilantro almond jasmine rice.

PHOTOG: (1) T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN (2) T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 19, 2008
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