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Chefs Collaborative: 20 Years Later

May. 16, 2013

By: Michael Leviton, chef/owner of Lumière (Newton, MA) and chef/partner of Area Four (Cambridge, MA)

In the late 1980s, I was a cook at Square One in San Francisco, California, where the food revolution was already under way. While the word “sustainability” did not exist in our vocabulary as chefs, there was an overarching belief that to be the best chef—and to make the best meals—you needed to start with great ingredients. It was not uncommon for chefs in that area to search out the best farmers, ranchers, bread bakers and cheesemakers because we knew that they put just as much care into their work as we did.

When I returned to New England in 1996, I found a much different culture. The area was not as robust with farmers, fishers, and other food artisans who shared a commitment to grow and produce great food, and it was a struggle to find the caliber of ingredients I was used to working with.

By then, Chefs Collaborative had a presence in Boston, and the organization connected me to like-minded chefs and food producers. Through my participation in Chefs Collaborative, I had an epiphany that flavor, healthfulness, and quality of ingredients are intricately linked to the care that is shown to the environment during production.

We chefs are blessed with the capacity to influence the public’s food choices. And our purchasing power is equally as influential among producers and purveyors. We will continue to push for ingredients produced and harvested with a passion for quality that matches our own; and we will continue to share the stories behind these ingredients with our customers, schoolchildren, public health professionals, the media—anyone, in fact, who will listen. With these and other efforts, we hope to keep this conversation—this movement—progressing.

With The Chef’s Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious: Recipes from America’s Great Chefs, we start where we always have—with a mixture of flavor and community. These two values have anchored us to our mission and principles since we began our work 20 years ago, and we have no doubt they will carry us into the decades to come. The community at our core is reflected in it—from the chefs who have provided recipes and information about our food to the farmers, ranchers, fishers, cheesemakers, foragers, and others who have brought the food into our kitchens and given us the tools and the context to understand how great flavor is created.

This cookbook is a blueprint for cooking like a sustainably minded chef. You’ll find delicious dishes that feature less familiar cuts of meat, like Beef Shin and Farro Soup, Pork Heart and Sausage Ragoût over Pasta. Lesser-known seafood species show up in Whey-Poached Triggerfish with Asparagus and Coconut Black Drum Seviche. And seasonal showpieces like Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Spring Peas and Tarragon and Autumn Pear “Ravioli” with Chanterelle and Shaved Pear Salad will inspire you to cook in the rhythm of the seasons. The recipes will make you want to head straight to the kitchen (with a quick stop at the farmer’s market first, of course).

Sustainable cuisine is about an approach to sourcing and cooking predicated on flavor, quality, and sharing our passion and knowledge. The pleasures of the table—that mix of flavor and community—enrich us in mind, body, and soul and inspire us to do our best work.

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