On the Bright Side: Culinary Leaders Using Their Platforms for Good
by The Culinistas
This article is featured in our latest volume of The Parchment Paper: Side Hustle, packed with stories from Camilla Marcus, Loria Stern, Richaud Valls, and so many more superstars plus includes features on our favorite sides for the holidays, gorgeous side table books, how to master the side hustle, and more. It’s free to download, with an option to make a donation to ROAR, an organization highlighted in the issue that advocates for the NYC independent restaurant industry.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for those in the culinary world who do much more than prepare delicious meals in the kitchen for us to enjoy; many industry leaders also have significant platforms to shed light on issues that are important to them. Whether that be mental health, equal access to food, or getting real about personal issues, these chefs are using their platforms for good to share stories, teach lessons, and connect with their audiences.
Kat Kinsman, a senior editor at Food & Wine, first opened up about mental health a few years ago as she wanted to see more representative conversations about the intersection between food and anxiety.
She runs the Communal Table podcast weekly which addresses topics intertwining business, the brain, and the body, and explores how to maintain a healthy long term balance. These resources and conversations are essential for other chefs and anyone who might be listening to feel less alone and more understood.
In 2016, Kinsman published Hi, Anxiety, a book about how anxiety pushes its way into someone’s life and can be extremely complicated at times. No matter the platform, she continually opens up the conversation about mental health and anxiety within the food industry.
We’re big fans of anything sustainable and equitable, and that’s exactly what Rethink Food strives to be. Rethink Food’s mission revolves around allowing people access to healthy and adequate meals, as more than fifty million Americans lack a reliable source of nutritious meals.
Since April of 2020, Rethink Food has prepared 5,000,000 meals for their neighbors and directly invested $22,000,000 to their communities. Since 2019, they’ve rescued over 900,000 pounds of usable food.
The organization is led by Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park, and Matt Jozwiak, previous chef at Eleven Madison Park. Both Humm and Jozwiak founded Rethink Food with the intention of distributing food to low income areas of New York City, and they’ve determined that giving back to the community and changing the industry for the better is just as valuable as headed up Michelin-starred restaurants.
Sean Brock, chef at McCrady’s in Charleston, is also a cookbook author and featured in a variety of food centered shows like Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef
Brock is much more than a chef. He was featured on Kinsman’s podcast discussing his journey with addiction, mental health, and recovery to open up about mental illness taking over his life. After struggling with alcohol and experiencing an intervention by his loved ones, Brock made a shift in his life and spent the next six weeks at The Meadows, a treatment center in Arizona. He has opened up about inner healing, taking time each day for self care activities, and approaching his career in a lighter, more mindful way.
He has permanently altered the way he fuels his body to support his mental health, understanding how vital holistic health is. His mission now is to help people in their healing process (through being open about his own struggle), however severe their problems might be, and to create a safe space to grapple with these issues. For Brock, healing can start with food, and he shows his love and support through providing healthy and delicious meals for others.
Chef José Andrés founded the World Central Kitchen in 2010, after visiting Haiti post earthquake, to heal food systems and strengthen communities in times of crisis. He strongly believes that everyone deserves a warm plate of food, and wants to make that mission possible throughout the world.
Although WCK was important prior to the pandemic, it has become even more vital due to the food sources struggling globally and the communities that are hit hardest. In the last two years, there have been tremendous changes throughout the world whether that be due to natural disasters, the coronavirus pandemic, as well as escalating global hunger. Chef Andrés and the WCK have paved the way for food philanthropy and prioritized equity and healing.
Stephen Satterfield, chef, food historian, food writer, and activist, uses his platform to educate about African American food culture and food history.
Satterfield had been working in media before launching his docuseries High On The Hog, which is more than a cooking show. It’s a representation of how vital African American food culture is to shaping cuisine in the United States, providing a more fleshed out picture of the history of food in our country.
Millie Peartree, a chef and contributor to NYT cooking, founded the nonprofit organization Full Hearts Full Bellies with the motto, “I don’t have the most and I don’t have the least.” After her restaurant closed abruptly during the pandemic, she decided to anchor her strength around making a positive impact in the community. Full Hearts Full Bellies strives to provide prepared foods to children in the Bronx in grades K-12 who have had canceled programs due to effects from Covid-19.
Because so many school programs were shut down during the pandemic, the amount of food that children were receiving during the day decreased dramatically, and Peartree’s work and dedication to both food and social justice allowed a lot of relief to these communities. Through the Full Hearts Full Bellies website, products like mugs, tee shirts, and sweatshirts are available for purchase and one hundred percent of the proceeds go to feeding children in need.