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Can These 11 Famous Chefs Save the World Through Food?
By James O'Hare
There are 20 million people in the world facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. In developed nations, too, people go hungry. Venezuela, for instance, is enduring food insecurity on a national level as a result of economic crisis and political corruption. In the U.S., the land of supposed excess, 12.7 percent of households were food insecure in 2015, meaning they didn't know where their next meal would come from.
As world governments pursue policies to secure food sources and humanitarian organizations work on the ground to deliver aid, there's one group of people who may have the expertise to solve problems in the global food system.
Chefs are the most qualified people on the planet to talk about food, not only in terms of flavors, but in the chemistry behind the ingredients they use. In their constant quest for better ingredients, they spur farming best practices to enhance nutritional value, increase efficiency, and get healthy foods to people in the areas of the world most affected by hunger. Many are also working to reduce food waste and improve sustainability, which helps everyone by protecting the environment.
These are 11 chefs saving the world with food:
1. Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura is a food waste reducing rock star. In cooperation with Pope Francis, he turned an abandoned theater in a Milan suburb into Refettorio, a soup kitchen that has turned more than 15 tons of excess food into meals for the homeless, working poor and refugees.
In true Global Citizen fashion, he then started a foundation, Food for Soul, to expand the concept to cities around the world, like Rio de Janeiro and London. He's currently in the process of bringing two Refettorios to the U.S., the Guardian reported.
2. Dan Barber
Dan Barber, who has been praised as a, "philosopher chef," is one of the leading voices for increased sustainability in restaurants.
Essentially, Barber wants restaurants to increase efficiency and cut down on food waste (not to mention improve taste) by growing their own ingredients, a movement called "farm-to-table."
Barber walks the walk—his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Westchester County, New York, does exactly that. What is more, Barber has transformed his other restaurant in Greenwich Village—also called Blue Hill—into a pop-up called WastED, serving dishes prepared with ingredients that would normally be destined for dumpster, like bruised and misshapen vegetables and stale bread. In January, he exported the concept to London.
Barber's influence is felt beyond the kitchen. He's written extensively about the importance of local farming and improving the farm-to-table movement in the New York Times, The Nation, Gourmet and Food & Wine. His book, The Third Plate, calls for an overhaul of our entire approach to meals, down to the proportions of meat and vegetables that typically compose a plate (spoiler: dishes should feature more vegetables).
Barber has done two TedTalks and was named to the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition by Barack Obama.
3. Hervé This
Hervé This isn't technically a chef, but his work could legitimately end world hunger.
This is a chemist who invented molecular gastronomy (studying the science behind cooking) in 1988. Now he's developing what he calls note-by-note (NbN) cooking—creating dishes with foods that have been deconstructed into basic compounds.
The chemical components of a food like texture and flavor can literally be separated and stored in vials. But it's more than just mad food science. This says that because foods are composed mostly of water, they spoil while being transported over long distances, unless they're refrigerated (which is expensive and detrimental to the environment). Deconstructed foods, broken down into foams and gels, can be transported and rebuilt, so to speak, bringing nutritious meals to communities around the world.
Last December, he published a book detailing how NbN cooking is more nutritious, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.
"I work for the public," he told the New York Times. "NbN is a new art for chefs and art is important. But are we going to feed humankind—or just make something for foodies?"
4. Sam Kass
Sam Kass advocates for healthier, climate smart food. He was the first Senior White House Food Policy Advisor while serving as Barack Obama's chef and was the executive director of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign, aimed at improving childhood health.
Kass helped the Obamas plant the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden. Like its predecessor, the Obama garden brought the issues of health and food sustainability to the national stage and inspired people to start home gardens of their own.
In 2012, Kass helped found the American Chef Corps, which promotes diplomacy through culinary initiatives. He's also the founder of Trove, a strategy firm, and a partner in Acre, a venture capital fund, that work to improve health and sustainability in the global food system.
5 and 6. Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson
Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson don't want people to sacrifice their health for a convenient and affordable meal. Which is why they founded Locol, a fast food chain that serves quick, healthy meals for just a couple of bucks. Furthermore, they prioritize locating their restaurants in underserved areas, also known as food deserts, that don't have many restaurant options other than corner stores and fast food.
On a grander scale, Locol seeks to restore integrity to fast food by emphasizing "food" over the corporate bottom-line.
"We believe chefs should feed America, not suits," the website says.
7. April Bloomfield
April Bloomfield's name is synonymous with nose-to-tail cooking. As the name implies, that means using the whole animal. The Birmingham, UK native is featured holding a whole pig on the cover of her book, A Girl and Her Pig.
Because nothing goes to waste, recipes often call for adventurous eaters.
"I love anything crispy so, you know, it's very natural for me to have crispy pigs ears," Bloomfield told NPR.
But not everyone is so optimistic. One of the greatest challenges of nose-to-tail cooking and improving efficiency in kitchens is making parts of an animal that people wouldn't normally eat taste good—which is precisely what Bloomfield is doing.
8. Joan Roca
Joan Roca, of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, has been listed as one of the top-ten chefs on the planet. But he's also an all-world activist.
Roca joined a legion of chefs who partnered with Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization, to curb overfishing and protect the millions of people who rely on fish as a dietary staple. Fittingly, the effort's slogan is, "Save the ocean. Feed the world."
"We have to protect the small fishermen in their little boats, these guys that are fishing every day," Roca explained, at an Oceana event. "Everybody cares about their own health, so we should also care about the ocean. It is our biggest pantry."
9. Thomasina Miers
Thomasina Miers won the television show Masterchef in 2005. Ever since, she's opened more than 20 restaurants in her native UK and is expanding to the U.S., but her celebrity hasn't come at the expense of social consciousness. Sustainability is a cornerstone of her Mexican street food-inspired restaurants.
An ardent campaigner for reducing food waste, Miers has advocated for, "the Pig Idea," recycling surplus food into pig feed (pigs' digestive systems allow them to eat just about anything).
Miers doesn't just want to find creative uses for food waste, she wants to reduce the amount of food that's wasted in the first place.
"As a business we always believed in buying sustainably-caught fish, so as not to add of the decimation of certain fish stocks, and we have always tried to put lots of vegetarian choices on the menu so that people had wonderful non-meat alternatives," Miers told Forbes. "The food industry is the largest, and most energy intensive industry out there—so we have the power to make positive change."
10. Bruno Loubet
Bruno Loubet's London restaurant Grain Store was named the London Restaurant of the Year by the Sustainable Restaurant Awards in 2014. It was no fluke. Loubet's forward-thinking eatery combines almost every sustainable food practice that the other chefs on this list have worked so hard to promote.
Foremost, he emphasizes vegetables.
"Although many dishes have a meat or fish element, vegetables are given equal billing, if not the starring role," the restaurant's website says.
Loubet has even removed meat from seasonal menus in the past. In addition to the nutritional and environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption, Grain Store is a shining example of ethical cooking.
The meat the restaurant uses is free-range and the fish is sustainably sourced. Grain Store also uses herbs and edible flowers that come from a community garden next door, the Independent reported.
The drive for sustainability isn't limited to food. Even the furniture at Grain Store is reclaimed.
11. Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain doesn't want to be called an activist (too bad, Anthony).
Bourdain is best-known as a television host who uses food in an educational capacity to study world cultures. But the trained chef has moved to the silver screen, producing, narrating and starring in a documentary called Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca film festival.
The documentary divulges how 40 percent of the food humans produce gets thrown out, the environmental ramifications of this waste and how people can intervene. It features many of the aforementioned chefs on this list (Bottura and Barber, plus Danny Bowien and Mario Batali), but it's Bourdain's participation that is the most impactful, however reluctant it was.
"I've never liked being accused of having a social conscience or being an activist, so this documentary is not something I instinctively would have become involved in," Bourdain narrates in the film's introduction. "But food waste is something that I've always had to be conscious of as a professional. I've also spent the last 15 to 17 years traveling the world and seeing where all that wasted food we generate in the West could go to feed people."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
Why have so few people officially recovered in the US?<p>This is a dangerous virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being extremely careful when deciding what it means to recover from COVID-19. Both medical and testing criteria must be met before a person is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html" target="_blank">officially declared recovered</a>.</p><p>Medically, a person must be fever-free without fever-reducing medications for three consecutive days. They must show an improvement in their other symptoms, including reduced coughing and shortness of breath. And it must be at least seven full days <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">since the symptoms began</a>.</p><p>In addition to those requirements, the CDC guidelines say that a person must test negative for the coronavirus twice, with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html" target="_blank">tests taken at least 24 hours apart</a>.</p><p>Only then, if both the symptom and testing conditions are met, is a person officially considered recovered by the CDC.</p><p>This second testing requirement is likely why there were so few official recovered cases in the U.S. until late March. Initially, there was a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-test-shortages-face-masks-swabs.html" target="_blank">massive shortage of testing in the U.S.</a> So while many people were certainly recovering over the last few weeks, this could not be officially confirmed. As the country enters the height of the pandemic in the coming weeks, focus is still on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html" target="_blank">testing those who are infected</a>, not those who have likely recovered.</p><p>Many more people are being tested now that states and private companies have begun <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html" target="_blank">producing and distributing tests</a>. As <a href="https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200406/coronavirus-in-ohio-from-its-rocky-start-testing-for-covid-19-slowly-ramping-up" target="_blank">the number of available tests increases</a> and the pandemic eventually slows in the country, more testing will be available for those who have appeared to recover. As people who have already recovered are tested, the appearance of any new infections will help researchers learn <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/we-need-smart-coronavirus-testing-not-just-more-testing/" target="_blank">how long immunity can be expected to last</a>.</p>
Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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