“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” (Elizabeth Andrew)
At our Roots 2016 culinary conference, we focused on the theme of empowerment, which naturally lends itself to the idea of justice. In a presentation titled “And Justice for All,” we found out more about why chefs choose to volunteer, why they are so effective, what charities appeal to chefs and much more.
Chefs on this panel include Executive Chef Zane Holmquist from Stein Eriksen Lodge and Executive Chef Mourad Lahlou of Mourad & Aziza, along with Katherine Miller from the Chef Action Network (CAN). CAN was launched in 2012 as a 501 c (3) non-profit. According to their Facebook page, this organization has “increased chef engagement on Capitol Hill and beyond in an effort to transform food policies across the country. CAN gives national chefs the tools and resources they need to become better advocates for issues affecting food policy, such as nutrition standards, sustainable seafood, food waste and more.” In 2016, CAN became an official program of the James Beard Foundation.
CAN, Katherine explains, helps individual chefs find causes that matter to them, and then provides them with the necessary training and resources so they can be effective advocates. They’ve had 140 chefs go through the program, with each one having unique interests – but also interests in common. One focus, for example, is dealing with food waste; the overarching goal is to reduce waste by 20 percent by 2020. Another common focus is improving child nutrition. Over the next few years, we can expect to see culinary labs expanded and more collective efforts towards sustainability, among other initiatives. You can hear more from Katherine directly.
Zane, meanwhile, focuses his charitable efforts on education and kids, believing that’s where he has the greatest opportunity for impact. More specifically, he’s very involved with Three Squares, Inc., a Salt Lake City program where the organization partners with an afterschool program. Chefs, including Zane, teach the children about healthy food choices.
Zane explains how one in five children aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from, and he shares how the focus of Three Squares has shifted from giving meals to teaching children food skills. It costs about $9.58 to teach a skill, whether it’s about food safety or storage; how to make good food choices on a limited budget; or how to scramble and egg or add vegetables to a quesadilla. Hear more from Zane himself:
Mourad advocates for sustainability in the restaurant world, with a focus on sustaining people. In San Francisco, he points out, food growers and preparers are among the poorest people, with his cooks unable to live in the city. He contrasts how many wealthy residents take jets and helicopters to work, but a dish washer who worked 120 hours a week – if that were even doable – still could not afford a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. His four sous chefs need to share an apartment there and they have no car (parking in downtown San Francisco costs $600-700 per spot monthly) – and the public transportation system shuts down for the night before many restaurants do.
Mourad shares how many people leave the culinary industry for just these reasons, so he is calling for people to be realistic about what it costs to have food put in front of you. You can listen to specifics here:
You can also watch the entire session on justice for all here.