There are many challenges that chefs face as a result of a multitude of factors — our industry, the environment, consumer wants and needs, and most importantly, our vision and artistry. Fortunately, chefs are wired to find creative solutions to difficult problems. As I look toward the new year, I am excited by the potential that chefs have to help train and grow our own employment pool and drive sustainable practices as solutions to many of our world's climate and environmental challenges. As restaurants fill their seats with more experienced and savvy diners, the industry is facing a shortage that impacts us all; skilled workers. One of the organizations I spend time working with addresses this directly and will be hugely influential in 2016. C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, provides culinary training for under-served youth and helps students to gain entrance to culinary schools, find scholarships and eventually jobs in the work force. They do so by asking industry leaders what training should be mandatory and then turning this into a teaching strategy. The success rate is high and the personal stories coming out of the program are incredible and inspiring. C-CAP benefits not just the restaurants like my own who are challenged with finding reliable and passionate employees, but it benefits the student, the culture of urban American cities and it chips away at the jobless rate in neighborhoods like my own.
Bringing in young talent also gives me the opportunity to teach and elevate the conversations in the kitchen to a dialogue about food waste and efficiency. When I think about Harlem, I see that there is even more possibility for growth in practices that sustain local markets. I speak with my team on daily basis about embracing our neighbors. Communicating with local vendors and farmers help to sustain people within the community and when we utilize local markets to create specific menu items — it reinforces that message to our guests in the restaurant. It's exciting to see dishes in my restaurants, Red Rooster and Streetbird, that were created specifically for what is available locally and seasonally. I truly believe that chefs can be the voice of these kinds of messages — messages that encourage models that are moving toward more sustainable practices in the food system.
In the next year, chefs will be challenged to think creatively about how to use all parts of the plant or animal and make serious considerations for sourcing responsibly. It is critical that as we learn, we teach others what we have learned, through programs like C-CAP. 2016 will challenge us as chefs, to utilize our platform in order to educate each other and reinforce the important messages of sustainable practices in the restaurant and beyond.
This post was originally published in series of posts by LinkedIn Influencers. In this series, professionals predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2016. Read all of the posts here and be sure to follow Marcus on LinkedIN.