Three Chefs Fighting For Social Justice
In celebration of the United Nations World Day of Social Justice, this year focusing on justice in the workplace, we honor three chefs who fight for diversity, inclusivity, opportunity and fair pay and working conditions in the food industry.
Born: London, UK, and raised in the United States
Cooking credentials: Executive Chef at DeYoung Museum, San Francisco and Google HQ in Mountainview, California. Co-founder of Navi Kitchen and Juju Beach Club restaurants. Contestant on Top Chef Season 6, and twice nominated for James Beard Foundation for “Best Chef of the West”.
Denounces: Lack of diversity in fine dining and an industry dominated by white men and built from a system permeated with oppression and hierarchy in which women, LGBT and other minorities are not treated equally.
“I don’t see a lot of Michelin stars Chefs with a genuine interest in change. I hate the same system that allows people like them to not question the whiteness of their institutions. They must acknowledge that there is inequality and they have benefited greatly from the exploitation of other people – women, black and brown people mostly.”
Dream Project: An inclusive farm restaurant model centered on people of color and non-European cuisines. A place that promotes minorities while cooking accessible and flavorful food.
“The field of farm restaurants is dominated by very white fine dining folks. I’ve done classes with young people, mostly black, and they see organic and sustainability as an elitist white person thing, instead of seeing it as part of our culture. I want to collaborate with guest chefs from everywhere who could see their cuisine represented in this environment. I would like to provide educational opportunities for young people and for cooks.”
Read more about Preeti Mistry.
Follow Preeti @chefpmistry
Born: Los Angeles, California
Cooking credentials: Opened Gem restaurant in New York City in 2018, a fine dining concept that is informal in spirit while enjoying refined execution. Chef Flynn places sustainability at the heart of the experience for his guests.
Importance of Sustainability:
Sustainability is first and foremost a lifestyle model based on respect, development, and empowerment of its employees. Chef Flynn dreams of a restaurant industry that would put forward a virtuous circle in which everyone is given a chance to blossom and progress.
“When consumers eat sustainable food, it provides cooks the nice livelihood that they deserve. Chefs need to consider the impact they have on the purveyors they work with, their employees, and creating a more sustainable future for the entire ecosystem.”
Future Plans: “I would like Gem to become this new beacon and experience that could move to different places in a much larger space. The most sustainable way to build this kind of model follows the idea of an ongoing loop to run everything: Employees would grow the food, cook the food, and turn the scraps into nurturing the food. The farmers would know how to cook and the servers would know how to grow vegetables. Everyone does everything in this continuous virtuous circle.
I hope that one day the restaurant industry is seen as a career and not just a job. Chefs need to create a sustainable environment so that people continue to come and work with them."
Read more about Flynn McGarry.
Follow Flynn @diningwithflynn
Born: Brooklyn, New York
Cooking credentials: Michelin starred seafood restaurant Marea in New York City, selected to cook for the James Beard Foundation's 2020 International Women's Day dinner, and competitor on Food Network show “Chopped”.
Denounces: Lack of diversity and inclusivity in the restaurant industry. “I realized that I have always been the only African American person in the kitchen,” she says. “How can fine dining become more accessible to chefs who aren’t white, male, or who didn’t go to France to train? There are a whole bunch of chefs who went to local culinary schools who deserve to be given a chance. These restaurants always put you in a box instead of moving people up, training them, and providing them with opportunities.”
Future plans: Brianna’s long-term goal is to open an LGBTQ+ community center with a farm on the premises. While Brianna would cook, her wife would take care of advertising and technology and teaching coding. “We would train and mentor these young queer people to provide them with tools for success.”
Read more about Brianna Cooper-Spruce.
Follow Brianna @chefbeecooks
Chefs for Impact is a New York City based nonprofit organization educating children and adults about the environmental and well-being impact of healthy and sustainable foods.
Chefs for Impact collaborates with local schools and community centers, and organizes food and wine events as well as online instructional material.
The organization is supported by some of the food industry’s leading authorities, Michelin starred chefs, and sustainability experts.
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