Boot camp takes sustainability into the kitchen

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By Brad Bowman

The James Beard Foundation hosted a chef boot camp in Louisville this week focusing on regional food systems and taking the sustainability issue into the kitchen where Henry County farmers’ products matters most.

Two Louisville chefs, Kathy Cary of Lilly’s and Levon Wallace of Proof on Main will join a dozen other chefs from across the nation to participate in the boot camp.

Chefs will meet with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a strong supporter of the Farm to Table and regional food movement in Jefferson County, to learn about the regional food scene.  Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, said the choice for Louisville was no mistake.

“Many people, including chefs know what is happening in Louisville,” Davis said. “We (the James Beard Foundation) come at this from a different perspective. We have listened to chefs wrestle with these issues and conversations about sustainability for some time. We bring the importance of the food culture to these conversations but the sustainability and agriculture subjects don’t always enter the conversation with the same weight. The increasing value of chefs can bring that weight to the subject.”

The boot camp attendees will spend time at Woodland Farm in Goshen learning about the different breeds of bison, pigs, chicken and produce, harvesting from the farm’s sustainably raised gardens. Chef Michel Nischan, founder of Wholesome Wave and Eric Kessler, founder of Arabella, conduct the boot camp to give the participants tools for policy change and leading as advocate in the culinary field.

Davis said each chef was chosen based on their voice as a leader.

“We had about 300 applicants and we picked chefs based on what they are doing in their own communities,” Davis said. “As the spotlight shines on chefs, farmers artisanal producers, and other food professionals who form the core constituency of JBF, we recognize the powerful potential to turn these dedicated professionals into leaders and advocates for a better, safer, more sustainable food system.”

Davis said the chefs will undergo mock-interviews and hands-on activities which will engage them with local resources.

“They will learn how things work in different municipalities and increasing connections within their community,” Davis said. “There is a network of chefs who are interested in this. We also have a good time and feel like we are a part of something bigger.”

Davis said the importance of sustainability and policy change isn’t always clear to everyone, but the boot camp pushes the dialogue further.

“It’s important for people to know if they go somewhere to eat that they are not just going to the right places,” Davis said, “but someone is making these important choices for them where there food isn’t marginalized and is less processed.”

The participants attended the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. The program has had one prior event last year on Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn. The foundation planned the program for another year.

Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, said in a press release the foundation will continue pushing the conversation.

“The James Beard Foundation is continually working to take the conversation about our food-system to the next level,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “Our Chefs Boot Camp fills a critical need for hands-on policy and advocacy skills training that allows participating chefs to bring messages for constructive change out into the culinary world.”