Being The Change
By Amanda Faison
Having just come off Slow Food Nations, a national festival held in Denver that aims at championing the mantra of good, clean, and fair food for all, we are left with myriad ideas churning in our heads. It was Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow FoodMovement, who summed it up best when he said, “We don’t want food that doesn’t have an identity.” Our Good Food 100 chefs work, via their kitchens and restaurants, to carry out this mission each and every day.
Twelve Good Food 100 Restaurants chefs—Daniel Asher, Rick Bayless, Renee Erickson, Jennifer Jasinski, Patrick Mulvaney, Kimbal Musk, Jorel Pierce, Paul Reilly, Steven Satterfield, Alex Seidel, Kelly Whitaker, and culinary advisor Michel Nischan—actively participated in the festival by teaching seminars, sitting on panels, and cooking for demonstrations and dinners. With each event, their joint goal of good sourcing and honoring the farmers, ranchers, and fisherman whose hard work enables them to shine was highlighted. “It’s about walking the talk,” says Renee Erickson, the James Beard–winning, Seattle-based chef behind The Whale Wins, The Walrus & The Carpenter, Bar Melusine, and Bateau, and General Porpoise.
Changing the food system for good is a weighty task with a long view but each of these chefs, and many, many more across the nation, make decisions daily that underscore their commitment to diligently chipping away at the injustices served by Big Agriculture and Big Food. In a $783 billion dollar industry where nearly 50 percent of every dollar spent is restaurant-related (this according to the James Beard Foundation), chefs can use their influence to bring real change.
The key to leveraging change is digging in and staying focused. Just as Steven Satterfield, author of Root to Leaf and James Beard–winning chef and co-owner of Miller Union in Atlanta, purchases from local farmers and takes on food waste by exploring the intricacies of each vegetable and using as much as possible, Erickson, Jennifer Jasinski (James Beard-winning chef of Denver’s Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Stoic & Genuine, and Euclid Hall) and Paul Reilly (of Beast & Bottle and Coperta in Denver) champion sustainable seafood through programs such as Smart Catch. Through these means, each chef serves high-quality food that comes with a story. The vegetables in Satterfield’s kitchen tell of the farmers and the region—and dishes such as pasta dough made with turnip greens and crackers that incorporate kale stems highlight Satterfield’s determination not to waste. The seafood that graces the tables at Erickson’s, Jasinski’s, and Reilly’s restaurants weaves a tale of an ocean that has a chance of healing from overfishing. Choosing to dine in a Good Food 100 restaurant is to celebrate the chef’s commitment to change by sharing the story of each ingredient.
Over time, the magic of Slow Food Nations is sure to will fade but the messages and Petrini’s closing remarks will continue to ring in our ears and mobilize us: “We don’t want food that doesn’t have an identity. We must wage this campaign everywhere.” Onward and upward.