Batali, Colicchio, Reusing: What is the Role of the Chef Outside the Kitchen?

Three prominent and politically active chefs discuss how and why their work goes far beyond the kitchen
Batali, Colicchio, Reusing: What is the Role of the Chef Outside the Kitchen?
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Should chefs contribute to the development of our country's sustainable agricultural system and diet? 

In the increasingly politicized and global world of agriculture and food, where does the professional chef fit in?

Should chefs, as a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed suggests, “stick to [their] pots and pans” and “leave the proselytizing to the politicians?”

As part of The New York Times Food for Tomorrow conference, food editor Sam Sifton posed that question to a panel of chefs: Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, and Andrea Reusing.

As it happens, each of these chefs happens to be intimately involved in issues of food policy and the development of sustainable agriculture and diet. In particular, chef Colicchio is not only the “scary head judge on Top Chef,” but the founder and board member of Food Policy Action (FPA), a political committee that works to hold politicians accountable for their voting records on issues of food and farming. 

Quickly, the conversation turns into a discussion of the difference between a chef's’ relationship with sustainable food versus that of the average consumer.

“We’re a victim of our own marketing in some sense,” says Andrea Reusing of Lantern Restaurant. “The farm-to-table movement has been very powerful for chefs in many ways, but we’re at this moment of plateau with it, and where can we go from here? The image of the chef in a white coat shopping at the farmers market is holding us back in a lot of ways.”

Watch the full panel discussion below:

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

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