Culinary crusaders
By Olivia Evans

What’s the secret ingredient to becoming a world-renowned chef? These five culinary crusaders show that becoming a great chef takes a lot more than solid cooking skills.  Each of them is working towards a higher cause—be it sustainable eating or hunger eradication—revolutionizing the way we look at food and how we are going to feed the world of our future.


Mario Batali, known worldwide for his Italian cooking on the Food Network, is an avid supporter of ending hunger and supporting food banks in the United States. In April, Batali decided to take on the food stamp challenge for a week in protest of SNAP cuts made by Congress—which present a menacing threat to the nearly 46 million Americans that live off the program each year. According to Batali, “It’s an interesting conversation every day to think about what hunger is, what food is, what nutrition is – in a way that really makes us think about it on a more personal level.”


Most know Rick Bayless as the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, reigning champion over a French and Italian cook with his zesty Mexican cuisine. Based in Chicago, Rick founded the Frontera Farmers Foundation in 2003 to support small, local Midwestern farms. The Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to over 70 different sustainable farms since.

Besh Sanchez

John Besh and Aarón Sánchez, two TV personalities and James Beard Award-winning chefs, recently toured Haiti on behalf of Oxfam’s GROW program.  The chefs checked out urban gardens in Port-au-Prince, explored new rice growing techniques in the countryside, and cooked local dishes alongside Haitian chefs, farmers and culinary students. Now back in the States, the duo – who also happen to be best friends – plan on raising awareness about the state of Haiti’s food insecurity and the need for more support.  


José Andrés, the Spanish chef often credited for introducing small tapas plates to the States, leads a number of initiatives to help develop smart solutions to hunger and poverty. Like Besh and Sánchez, his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, also went to Haiti - but with a different twist. On his trip he brought 14 solar-powered kitchens to help make the path to food security in the country more environmentally sustainable and affordable. This year, he will speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Conference.


Jamie Oliver, founder of the eponymous Jamie Oliver Foundation, encourages sustainable eating in a variety ways.  The Foundation supports wholesome school lunch programs, healthy consumption in family kitchens, and cutting down on food waste. “By teaching people of all ages basic cooking classes and giving them basic nutritional advice,” says Jamie, “we can help them help themselves achieve a healthier future.” 

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