The avocado breakup: why a Seattle restaurant (and many others) scrapped avocados from their menu

Jun 3, 2022, 6:01 AM | Updated: 2:22 pm
(KIRO Newsradio)...
(KIRO Newsradio)
(KIRO Newsradio)

Americans have a love affair with avocados. We will pay extra for guacamole, we’re willing to give up home ownership for avocado toast:

“A lot of people won’t own a house in their lifetime, when you’re spending $40 a day on smashed avocado and coffees,” said Australian millionaire and real estate mogul, Tim Gurner, famously, on an episode of 60 Minutes in Australia.

A Renton woman inspired bake sales around the world to stop Asian hate

Even William Shatner wanted to talk about avocado toast with me.

“The quality of the toast, to me, is just as important as the quality of the avocado,” Shatner said on my podcast, Your Last Meal.

But Grand Central Bakery and Café, a small chain with about a dozen locations in Seattle and Portland, is breaking up with the avocado. At least for most of the year.

“We’re not serving avocados except for a couple of months out of the year,” said Laura Heinlein, Seattle cuisine manager at Grand Central Bakery.

Many restaurants and cafes around the world are also giving up avocados for many reasons including environmental.

“Avocados require a lot of water to grow,” said Heinlein. “84.5 gallons per avocado.”

Then they have to ship them up to the Pacific Northwest from Mexico.

“And then, of course, a lot of deforestation is happening because they’re going to make so much money, well, the cartels actually make a lot of money, growing this. We might as well plow [the forests down] and grow these avocado groves,” said Heinlein.

The decision is also political. Mexican cartels are siphoning money away from farmers and illegally profiting off of the multibillion-dollar avocado industry.

“Avocados are a big, lucrative business in Mexico,” said Heinlein. “When you have a big, lucrative business, certain players want to get involved. So, the cartel has gotten involved. The farmers that are actually growing the avocados are now having to pay ‘protection money’ to the cartels. We didn’t want to support that.”

JP McMahon, chef and owner of two Michelin-starred restaurants in Ireland, calls avocados “the blood diamonds of Mexico” and encourages restaurants and consumers to stop buying them. Eighty percent of avocados sold in the US are from Michoacan, Mexico.

Heinlein said Grand Central will only add avocado to their sandwiches when they’re in season and will only source them from California.

Open since 1989, Grand Central has always been a leader in sustainability and seasonality. They were among the first to go 100% compostable and, for the past 15 years, they’ve only put tomatoes on sandwiches when they’re local and in season.

“Every sandwich had a tomato on it and they were pink, sometimes a little green, weren’t very delicious, they weren’t very ripe,” said Heinlein. “They were coming from afar.”

Heinlein says they braced themselves for avocado backlash, but haven’t gotten any. She thinks customers often want to do better, and they learn from businesses that set examples.

Instead of avocado, they’re now serving what they call garden mash.

“It is a combination of green peas mashed with white beans, olive oil, lemon juice, a little bit of garlic, salt, and pepper,” said Heinlein. “It fulfills that creamy, earthy flavor that you get from avocado. We worked a little bit hard on getting a great color. Most people would probably look at it and think it was avocado. It’s surprisingly well received.”

I love avocado and I have to say, I preferred the garden mash on toast and on their popular veggie grinder sandwich; it had a lot more flavor.

But the bigger question that’s been asked for some time is, what are we willing to give up for the sake of the environment and the safety of workers? Historically, we mostly only give things up because they’ve been taken away.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal.” Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Newsradio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

(Photo courtesy of Elderwise) Participants enjoy conversation and creative arts at the Elderwise ad...
Rachel Belle

The Memory Hub is a new Seattle community center for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s

The Memory Hub is a free place for people with dementia and Alzheimer's, and their families and caregivers, to access all kinds of programs and support. 
1 day ago
(Photo by Kevin Schmid/Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

Search and Rescue doing more rescues due to inexperience, social media

Your rescue may be interrupting these volunteers in the middle of dinner, but to be clear, they have dedicated their lives to this work that they love.
17 days ago
Doctors perform a vasectomy on November 13, 2015. (SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images)...
Rachel Belle

It can be harder to get a tubal ligation or vasectomy than it is to get a gun

Reighter went to a doctor requesting tubal ligation. But she was denied. Not for medical reasons, but because of the doctor's personal values.
23 days ago
Memorials for victims of Tuesday's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school (Getty Images)...
Rachel Belle

WA’s largest mental health org: ‘Violence is not a product of mental illness’

Lauren Simonds, the CEO of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Washington State, says anger is to blame, and anger is not mental illness. 
1 month ago
Kat Lieu bakes in her home kitchen. (Photo by Jake Young)...
Rachel Belle

A Renton woman inspired bake sales around the world to stop Asian hate

Renton's Kat Lieu created Subtle Asian Baking on Facebook to create a community conversation around baking Asian treats, but it transformed into a fundraising effort that's raised tens of thousands of dollars. 
1 month ago
Owner Sophia Walker believes in fitness AND doughnuts. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Walker)...
Rachel Belle

Seattle’s No Judgement Fitness is a safe space for the LGBTQ community to workout

No Judgement Fitness is mirror free and focuses on body positivity, not weight loss. 
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
The avocado breakup: why a Seattle restaurant (and many others) scrapped avocados from their menu