To stay successful is to find balance in your life between your work and your personal time. I am naturally a workaholic — working nearly all the hours that I am awake. That means the metric for success is finding time to set aside work for my family. Specifically, I think of how much timeRead More
At the start of the calendar year, I am always reflecting on the previous year, but also looking toward the new year to make important changes in how I operate and accomplish my goals. I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years and people have definitely guided me in becoming more skilled and creative — both in the kitchen and in business.Read More
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.
Poverty in America looks very different from poverty in other parts of the world. While being poor in my home nation of Ethiopia means not having access to water but eating incredibly delicious and healthy foods everyday, being poor in the United States can mean clean water but not necessarily nutritious things to eat. Poverty is a problem that affects all parts of the globe, so it can be hard to visualize what you can do here at home to.
As a chef running a busy kitchen, I’ve learned a lot about about saving, planning and projecting and I truly believe that making even a small change to an individual’s daily routine can make an impact on a larger scale. The mentality in American culture is often “the bigger the better,” but we are all smart enough to know that’s not exactly the case. Just like at a restaurant, planning out your meals in advance means you are only buying exactly what you need and not spending in excess. Saving room in the plan for leftovers means wasting less and that planning will become easier as “needs” adjust away from “wants.”
You’ll be saving money, but how does this affect the global idea of poverty? Simple economics tells us that demand is directly related to price. When demand drops because more people are buying only what they need, the price drops making commodities more affordable for everyone, especially those who have smaller budgets and income. While it may seem like a far-fetched solution, a more global consciousness of need versus want could have big implications.
Another way that I, as a chef, have thought about this issue in regard to food has been through education. After the financial crisis of 2008, many Americans were facing financial insecurity, especially in neighborhoods like mine. Unemployment in Harlem was more than twice the national average and in a neighborhood where amenities are already scarce this meant different kinds of sacrifices were made, especially when it came to nutrition. American families in general began spending less of their incomes on food and the category that took the biggest hit: fresh produce. People instead began turning more and more to quick and cheap calories at fast food places, where a few dollars can buy you fries, a burger and a soda. While shopping and cooking does take more time than drive-thru, a commitment to healthy eating can be delicious and cost-effective.
I’ve been doing cooking classes in Harlem since Red Rooster opened in 2010 and it has been an indescribable experience showing kids from the YMCA or a local charter school that vegetables don’t have to be soggy and over-steamed but delicious! They’ve learned about food they’ve never had before that can pack in protein and nutrients and still taste good, including alternative grains like teff, quinoa and couscous. I believe you can eat wonderful meals and feel satisfied after eating less when you infuse rich flavors into your cooking. Simply put, nourishing foods can be budget friendly – and chefs share the responsibility of broadcasting that message!
Let’s not forget that healthy eating leads to a healthier society overall, which means a cheaper cost of living for everyone! Our country is in the midst of a cataclysmic health crisis, much of it caused by how we eat. More than one-third of American adults are currently obese (another one-third are overweight), and according to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980. It becomes an even more alarming number when you read that obesity is already causing $150 billion annually in medical costs. Imagine where that money could be spent if we reduced American obesity rates by even half! There would be more funding for programs that helped feed the homeless, educate the underserved and increase the employability of those in poverty through job training.
This article was originally posted as part of LinkedIN's Take Action series in which Influencers and members discuss how to drive change that matters. Read the original post here.
It's the start of the Aspen Ideas Festival, a gathering of great minds in Colorado to discuss incredible innovations and the most pressing issues of the present. I'm extremely excited to hear some of these amazing thinkers and leaders speak (you can see the all-star line up here) and am even more humbled to have been asked to be a presenter. The title of my talk is "Cooking and Eating Your Way to a New Community." For those with tickets, you can come hear me live bright and early on Saturday morning! For those without, I thought I would briefly share a few of my thoughts beforehand.
People often ask me why my restaurant Red Rooster Harlem has chop suey on the menu. They can understand the berbere spiced cocktails from my personal life story or the Fried Yard Bird and Mac & Greens from the surrounding soul food influence of the Harlem neighborhood, but chop suey? My answer is always "because that's how I can best savor Harlem, through meatballs, mac & greens, and chop suey."
Red Rooster Harlem is meant to reflect the vibrant neighborhood that surrounds it. Food is the best way to understand the soul of a place and I wanted this menu to reflect everything I had absorbed in the years spent living here, cooking and eating everything delicious this neighborhood had to offer. These dishes included not only chop suey from a growing Chinese population in the east, but also the delicacies of the Senegalese, West Indian, and Latin American communities that overlap on these few city blocks.
As I cooked myself into this new place, I also knew I had to give Harlem back everything it had given me. Luckily, food has that power as well. Through cooking and eating, one can shape a neighborhood, improving the well being of the people and businesses that it is comprised of. Take the farmer's market on 125th, frequented regularly by Red Rooster's chefs. Not only does it provide a source of affordable, locally grown produce, but it draws people out of their homes and offices to talk to farmers and compare strawberries and swap recipes. (We tried to follow this same model for my dinner in Aspen preceding this talk, featuring Colorado lamb and local deviled eggs, with special acknowledgements to the farmer and place that produced each delicious ingredient.)
But on an even broader sense, food can shape the very essence of a community itself. Good food is best served with good company and that's why Rooster is also built upon this idea of inclusiveness, a place where the tourist, the New Yorker, and the Harlemite can all gather under one roof to break cornbread. At our communal tables, with plenty of good food ready to be ordered, people catch up on the happenings at the church down the street, learn a few key Swedish words from a visiting family, or simply refuel with some delicious and unexpected Harlem chop suey.
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