(Banner photo © Zach Nash)
In the movie Chef, Jon Favreau plays a chef on the edge who leaves his crazy white-linen job to run a food truck.
In the movie “Chef”, Jon Favreau’s character abruptly quits working for a posh L.A. restaurant that’s been squelching his creativity – as well as forcing him to work under a psycho boss, deliciously played by Dustin Hoffman. The disgruntled chef decides to follow his dream of opening a specialty food truck and the results are, of course, movie magic.
So is art imitating life? Are real-life chefs and would-be chefs quite as bold after they’ve been stifled creatively? Turns out yes, even if most interviewed won’t cop to being quite as miserable as Favreau’s Chef Carl was onscreen.
Pride of ownership
Oklahoma City-based chef Jonathon Stranger, co-owner of popular restaurant Ludivine, attended the world-class Institute of Culinary Education, yet in his early 20s his life was a mess. Working in restaurants seemed to fuel an alcohol-and-pills habit, in part because of the plentiful supply he found through working in kitchens, but mainly because of where his head was at.
Chef Jonathon Stranger went from recovery to creative riches with his world-class restaurant Ludivine, which has brought the farm-to-table concept to Oklahoma City, his hometown. Photo © Quit Nguyen
Leah Sarris, program director of Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine (second from right) celebrates groundbreaking for a new kitchen with a Tulane med student and two Johnson & Wales culinary nutrition students.
While the general population is gradually learning that eating well can stave off some of society’s worst diseases such as diabetes and obesity, the medical community has been even slower to follow suit. Remarkably, medical school programs, at least traditionally, do not require taking nutrition and medical doctors can actually graduate being clueless on the concept of using food to cure what ails us.
All of that could change thanks to some forward-thinking individuals at Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine in New Orleans and at Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales University.
While “giving back” has become cliché in modern business, it’s still important to single out those selfless souls who make it part of their day’s work. The restaurant and food industry in particular offers an extraordinary level of dedication to charitable causes.
(Photo © Shawna Lemay/flickr)
Whether they support cancer research or help alleviate homelessness or domestic violence, restaurateurs somehow make sure they find the time and the resources to give as they can.
We found many food establishments both small and large who are opening not only their hearts, but their pocketbooks and kitchens to help the less fortunate. This is just a fraction of the many benevolent chefs, restaurants and organizations giving back.
It’s a Cat’s Life
Darbster Foundation is the brainchild of Ellen Quinlan and her husband Alan Gould, who operate a vegan restaurant of the same name in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Pedro was found in an abandoned building. He had worms and needed veterinary care. Darbster Foundation did this and he was subsequently adopted.
The popular eatery donates 100 percent of its profits to area charities that spay and neuter feral cats, and help animals find homes and low-income families pay veterinary bills.
Quinlan says that since she and her husband have other businesses, they don’t need the money from Darbster. “So we really set up the restaurant so we would have a place to eat that was vegan.”
Any profits they make are funneled into the foundation, last year saving about 300 cats from being put down through adoption programs. “These guys can’t take care of themselves so we feel it’s our responsibility to give back as much as we can,” Quinlan shares.