At this year’s National Restaurant Show in Chicago I had the good fortune to meet James Beard and “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard at her new venture, Little Goat. I was there as part of a group of foodservice operators for the Taste the Trends Tour. Before the tour I had hoped we would get the chance to get a brief “hello” from Izard, so I was pleasantly surprised when we walked up to the second story into the restaurant’s private dining space and balcony to see Izard preparing the Sloppy Goat sandwiches that we would be dining on that afternoon. Not only did Izard prepare our food for us, she hung around signing copies of her book, taking photos and talking food with the tour’s attendees.
I had watched Izard’s season of “Top Chef” and was more than a little excited to meet her. It was a wonderful experience to meet a young, female chef who is having such a substantial effect on the industry. Izard isn’t the first chef I’ve had the pleasure of meeting who fits the young, female, making a difference description.
A few years back I had the opportunity to shadow Pnina Peled, executive chef at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. You can always tell when a person is passionate about his/her work. Peled radiates that passion. We met in her cozy office and she talked food with me for a while. Peled’s food knowledge is, of course, outstanding, but it’s her patient interactions that were really impressive. We had not taken but a few steps onto the pediatric floor before a patient came up and threw her arms around Peled, which I found out was not an uncommon reaction to the chef’s presence on a patient floor.
For the next few hours I watched as Peled checked in on her patients—one of which was a young boy. This child had been coming to the hospital for years to receive treatment, both on an in-patient and out-patient basis. The boy and his parents spent an hour talking with me about the impact Peled has had on their son’s treatments. Like many cancer patients, this child had a difficult time eating—or having the desire to eat. Peled, upon learning of his discomfort, made a personal visit and asked him what he liked to eat. She then went to the kitchen to make it for him personally.
The fact that Peled had such a personal connection with this—and many other patients—was a truly inspiring experience for me. That’s why we at FoodService Director wanted to honor those executive chefs who are making a difference in their operations and the non-commercial industry as a whole.
So we’re asking you to nominate the chefs in your operation or in a co-worker’s facility who you think are deserving of the most influential honor. Send us a brief description of the chef and his/her impact on the non-commercial industry. We’ll pick the most deserving from the bank of nominations and feature those chefs on our website. The deadline for submissions is July 31.