Our Chefs Boot Camp alums talk advocacy
August 04, 2020
Read Time 2 mins
Photo by Clay Williams
For the past few months, we’ve been hosting webinars as part of our Industry Support learning series. Topics have covered all facets of the current crisis, from understanding the RESTAURANTS Act, to the challenges faced by Indigenous people during the pandemic, to navigating the challenges in our food supply chain, and more. Two weeks ago, we spoke with a few Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change alums to discuss how chefs can use their voices to create a better food world.
Chef Kevin Mitchell’s culinary work centers on preserving Southern ingredients and contributions to the culinary diaspora. As a way to teach the history of Black chefs in the kitchen, Mitchell reenacted a dinner in honor of Nat Fuller, a formerly enslaved chef who hosted a meal at the end of the Civil War in the spirit of equality and reconciliation. Though he believes that “chefs are advocates whether we know it or not,” he reasons that the work done in private is just as important as public efforts. “You don’t necessarily have to be the loudest one in the room [or] be the one that’s always out in the public. You can be advocating behind the scenes.”
Judy Ni’s Philadelphia restaurant bāo • logy was substantially informed by the chef’s Taiwanese culture and the nation’s relationship with food. “The philosophy of Taiwainese food is very much that food is medicine. If a culture is valued by its food, then who gets access, how they get access, [and] what kind of food they get is absolutely a reflection of the values of our society.” When dismantling issues such as food access and poverty, Ni reminds us that behind the systems in place are people, and that people can commit to a better future. “Everyone’s talking about systems—capitalism, socialism, communism, racism. We forget that -isms are all people. We have a voice. We make individual choices each day that contribute to where we are right now. Sometimes you don’t know, so you don’t do better. Now we know—let’s do better.”
As a response to the pandemic, Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots turned to tech to get organized. She launched The Citizen Toolbox, a platform that generates template emails to connect individuals to their representatives. With an average time-on-tool clocking in at 30 seconds, the platform creates an easy way for people to get active in their local governments. “We have to make sure that we meet people where they are, and that we give them tools so that the quietest among us and the loudest among us are speaking at the same volume,” Raj explained.
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