24 Ways Chefs are Cooking Up Change Outside of the Kitchen

by Danielle Nierenberg and Philip Hanes,

Chefs have a unique part to play in making the food system more environmentally sustainable, socially just, and delicious. They connect producers and consumers, understand where food comes from, and know what consumers want.

FoodTankFood Tank is excited to highlight 24 chefs and organizations who are making change everyday in kitchens around the world.

Dan Barber, chef at Blue Hill and Stone Barns in New York, as well as the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, educates his patrons about where their food comes from and the good agricultural practices required to produce it.

According to Barber, "Chefs are such an important part of things. We can shape culture, habit, and excitement because all of a sudden chefs are cultural icons. I’m chronicling the rise of the empowered chef who is able to change our conception of what a gourmet meal is."

The chefs and organizations we are highlighting are some of the industry's leaders, but they are not alone. Please let us know of chefs you think are creating a more sustainable – and tasty – food system!

Chef Action Network provides a support network with training for chefs who want to promote a better food system. They believe that “all people, regardless of income, ethnicity, or where they live, should have access to safe, affordable, sustainable, and nutritious food.”

Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change brings together chefs with political and industry experts to discuss sustainable agriculture, the Farm Bill, fisheries, livestock production, food prices, urban agriculture, community development, and antibiotic use.

Chefs Collaborative highlights the power chefs have in sourcing products, serving food, and operating sustainably. They advocate for a culinary world where, "sustainable practices will be second nature for every chef in the United States."

Euro-toques, based in France, represents over 2000 chefs in Europe and educates chefs, children, and the public about food issues while supporting food producers and the European food heritage. Euro-toques also does policy and lobbying work supporting small, local, and artisan food producers.

Culinary schools around the world offer programs recognizing the importance of sustainability in cuisine.

The Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College Bend, Oregon offers classes on sustainable food production systems, harvesting, and preservation principles with environmental stewardship as a core value.

The Culinary Institute of America with locations in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore, is committed to sustainability. The Green Campus Initiative promotes local sourcing and integrates sustainability across curriculums, emphasizing natural resource management, recycling, cooking oil conversion to biodiesel, and water and energy conservation.

The International Culinary Center, with locations in New York, California, and Italy, trains culinary professionals with an emphasis on farm-to-table food systems. Founder and CEO Dorothy Cann Hamilton is highlighting the importance of culinary sustainability while overseeing the USA Pavilion at this year's World Expo in Milan, Italy.

The Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central Community College integrates sustainable, organic practices which empower students to become “gatekeepers of the food system.”

Some chefs leverage their position as leaders with foundations and organizations focusing on sustainability, food policy, local produce, nutrition, and food justice.

Ben Shewry's Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia was awarded Best Restaurant in Australasia by San Pellegrino. It aims to reconnect diners with an understanding of where their food comes from. Shewry and Attica make sustainability a priority through eliminating endangered fish from the menu and choosing less conventional species to work with.

Known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, Ann Cooper has worked as an advocate for feeding children better school lunches. She has succeeded in bringing fresh, local food into school lunch systems in the Berkeley and Boulder areas, and promotes the return to cooking from scratch in school cafeterias.

Alice Waters founded Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley in 1971, while focusing on promoting a "good, clean, and fair" food economy through using the finest and freshest of organic seasonal ingredients. She also launched The Edible Schoolyard in the Bay area, an initiative that actively engages children in all aspects of the food cycle.

Tom Colicchio, known for Gramercy Tavern and Craft restaurants in New York, is committed to food policy reform. Founded in 2012, Food Policy Action is a collaboration between food policy advocates exposing how politicians vote on food issues. The National Food Policy Scorecard makes it possible to hold representatives accountable for the stances they take on important food system issues.

Chicago chef Rick Bayless created the Frontera Farmer Foundation, which awards capital development grants to small farms in the Chicago area that are working to promote sustainable practices.

As founder of the Jamie Oliver Foundation, Jamie Oliver has been a pioneer of sustainable food through projects focusing on better school lunch programs, the reduction of food waste, increasing the amount of time families spend in the kitchen, and the promotion of eating fresh, wholesome foods.

Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin avidly participates in the City Harvest food rescue program which collects fresh surplus food from restaurants in New York and makes it available to communities in need. Ripert serves on the board of City Harvest, and together with Le Bernardin leverages a powerful advocacy voice on food waste.

In addition to acting as the chef and owner of several Philadelphia-area restaurants, Jose Garces maintains a 40-acre sustainable and organic farm, Luna Farms, which supplies food to his restaurants and serves as a tool for educating children about sustainable and healthy eating.

Olivier Roellinger, formerly of Maisons de Bricourt restaurant in Brittany, France uses his current position as vice-president of the hotel and restaurant group Relais & Chateaux to advocate for the sustainable sourcing of fish populations, particularly the banning of bluefin tuna and the eventual elimination of all endangered fish from menus.

Washington, D.C.-based Barton Seaver has been instrumental in teaching his patrons about the relationship between seafood and sustainability. His focus has centered on the preservation of local and global fish supplies, and issues surrounding over-fished and destructively-fished species. He has partnered with National Geographic to create a sustainable Seafood Decision Guide.

Bill Telepan opened his New York restaurant to showcase seasonal, greenmarket ingredients, while his Wellness in the Schools (WITS) program focuses on healthy eating, sustainability, and fitness for kids in public schools.

Michel Nischan, founder of Wholesome Wave, has over 30 years of experience working for a better food system. Wholesome Wave works to increase access to healthy food, prioritize nutrition, and generate revenue for farmers.

José Andrés is the chef behind Minibar and Jaleo in Washington, D.C. and also the founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK). At WCK the focus is on building "smart kitchens,” training people how to safely and properly use cookstoves, generating jobs, and strengthening local economies around the world.

Haiti Breathes is a partnership between WCK, USAID, Chemonics, and Switch Haiti that is converting 800 schools in and around Port au Prince from charcoal energy to liquid petroleum gas.

Marc Vetri is responsible for launching not only some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, but also the Vetri Foundation for Children, whose mission is to educate children about healthy eating through teaching and social interaction. Vetri's foundation has reformed school lunches in several Philadelphia schools.

Do you have a favorite chef making a difference in the food system? Let us know!

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