Bone broth is exactly what it sounds like: a pile of animal bones, covered in water; some vegetable scraps; and often a bit of cider vinegar–all boiled until the bones crumble. But despite–or because of–its simplicity, bone broth is having a moment. It’s long been popular among some athletes and the paleo crowd, but now, thanks in large part to Canora, it’s going mainstream.
As a chef, Canora has been sipping bone broth for years, which may have been the only healthy part of a diet that until recently consisted largely of bread, butter, cigarettes, and alcohol. Like many chefs, he describes his years in the business as “a boatload of stress and no sleep and no exercise.”Then, hitting his 40s, the results of a detailed blood test encouraged him to clean up his act. He quit smoking, and started making broth a more substantial part of his diet.
Meanwhile, Canora had been eyeing a pastry window at his restaurant, trying to figure out what he could possibly sell out of it… In November, Canora put a bright orange awning over the window, christened it Brodo, and started selling bone broth. A small cup of organic chicken broth in a to-go cup costs $4. A large gingered beef broth with bone marrow and garlic is more like $10.50.
“I though it would help a little bit,” says Canora of Brodo. “I thought it would be a cool supplemental side thing” that would give a nice boost to the notoriously low-margin business of running a restaurant.
Instead, it blew up. Between 200 and 400 people come by the window daily, and the average ticket is close to $15. Bone broth made the front of the New York Times dining section, a video crew from Today.com showed up, and German television arrived a week later.
Now, Canora says that Brodo has become “a bit of a beast.” Bone broth, ridiculously easy to make in family-size portions at home, is a different proposition altogether when made for hundreds in a tiny underground restaurant kitchen, where Canora boils 40-gallon batches.
Now, Canora has become the high priest of broth. “I find myself preaching a lot lately,” he says. “I’m really happy to be part of this movement toward food as…medicine is not a sexy enough word. But I love this notion of food needs to do more than just taste good. Of course it’s got to taste good. But it should feed you in a way that is not just taste buds.”
Bone broth perfectly epitomizes this, he says: “I drink it every day, and it’s delicious. The health benefits are just the icing” on the (paleo, liquid) cake.
Advocates say that broth’s benefits include better gut health, reduced joint pain and inflammation, an improved ability to fight infection, and more lustrous skin, hair, and nails.
That’s a lot to ask from a pile of bones, necks, and backs, no matter how long they’re boiled. And Canora readily admits that the research into the health benefits of bone broth is “a little thin,” although there’s no doubt that the boiling releases the gelatin, chondroitin, and glucosamine in the bones.
But there are plenty of believers. In 2012, Dr Cate Shanahan, a consulting nutritionist for the LA Lakers, started giving the players bone broth to aid joint health and recovery. Sally Fallon, co-author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, which sold half a million copies, in September published Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World.
Bone broth has also been a big hit with people on the paleo diet, which eschews caffeine. In October, organic food maker Pacific Foods launched a line of shelf-stable bone broth.
Canora is emphatic in his belief that bone broth is more than a passing fad. He absolutely wants to expand, but won’t talk about his plans, saying only that “I want to do it as smartly and strategically as I can.”
He says bone broth is going to be huge – bigger, even, than cold-pressed premium juice, which has become a $3-billion business. Like juice, and like coffee before it, a high-end broth like Canora’s costs much more than its plebian predecessors – and, at least so far, customers seem happy to pay up.
It remains to be seen whether Canora’s business – premium prices and labor-intensive ingredients included – can really be scaled beyond the hipster, wealthy, food-obsessed enclave of downtown Manhattan….