Top Chef Celebrates World Food Day

Top Chef alum Sam Talbot celebrated the sweet potato on World Food Day

Sam Talbot

New York City ONE members gathered at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan to celebrate World Food Day with advocacy on Oct. 16. ONE, the grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that seeks to fight poverty and preventable diseases, invited leaders in food and nutrition to speak, including former Top Chef contender Sam Talbot, at a sweet potato-themed event.

The event began with some sobering statistics. Some 25 million people die every day from poor nutrition, not a lack of food, according to Jeff Davidoff, ONE chief marketing officer. Dr. Sharon Akabas, director of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, translated the number as the equivalent of 7,000 747 aircrafts of children dying each year.

"Fighting extreme poverty is an act of justice, not an act of charity," said Davidoff. "Our country does a great job at focusing on the quantity of food, but not the quality, and we’re asking that nutrition be put on the agenda programs already at work."

Akabas broke down the need for nutrition into organ growth, immune function, and development, before showing the group how children’s abilities to thrive can be limited by poor nutrition as early as conception, but can then be partially restored with nutrients as they grow.

But understanding the problem and the cause is not enough, according to organizers who offered suggestions for taking action. David Weber, founder of the New York City Food Truck Association, cited three organizations that have inspired him by empowering people with the knowledge and skills to be successful — the Hippo Water Roller Project, iCow, and Rooting Out Hunger.

"What can food trucks do, go to Africa and serve hot dogs? No," said Weber. "It's little technologies that help us thrive in mobile food and little technologies that give impoverished people opportunities."

Chef Sam Talbot shared one solution that travelers can find virtually anywhere in the world — sweet potatoes — which he said are emblematic of how one little difference in a crop can make a world of difference when consumed.

"As a type 1 diabetic, what would I have done if I didn't know where each next meal was coming from?" said Talbot. "Being from the South, the sweet potato really hits home to me, and as a diabetic, so does nutrition."

Talbot served his sweet potato salad at the event, along with sweet potato Cheddar croquettes, sweet potato pie, and whole-wheat sweet potato muffins.


"The technology involved to pack these with vitamin A and get kids the nutrition they need is a beautiful thing," said Talbot. "This [salad] is great for Thanksgiving and the holidays and allows for raising awareness."