Chef Greg Christian - "The Conscious Caterer"

June 28, 2009 1:30:17 PM PDT
Chef Greg Christian talks about his new book and makes a recipe with local vegetables on ABC 7 News Sunday morning.(News Release)While going green may appear to be the new black, a new book explores how the discovery of honoring the power of sustainable food was nothing less than life transforming for one local chef before it was trendy. Greg Christian, sustainable chef, founder of the Organic School Project (OSP) and sustainability consultant, aims to tell his story of awareness and social consciousness via his first memoir "Food and Forgiveness: How a Chicago Chef Came Around," to be released July 2009 through Chicago's White Eagle Press.

Starting with a 'from the heart' look at his early family life and heady early years as a chef in New York City and Chicago where he created culinary masterpieces, he explores the evolution of his attitude and consciousness. In his rise as a chef, Christian had little consideration where the food he cooked came from or the impact it had on our environment. Christian tells us it was not until he became a father to a child with debilitating asthma that he turned his attention to the power of holistic and organic foods and changed the direction of his life and his work. His attitude completely reversed itself, and he chose to honor the food system as a whole and to become more conscious of the products that he consumed and served to his high profile clientele.

"I was blessed with a gift as a chef, but it was only after my daughter's asthma was brought under control by using organic food that I began to open my eyes," says Christian. "I wore blinders for so many years, but thankfully came to realize there was more to being a chef than simply cooking food. It was about honoring the entire system by striving to eat locally and organically, to eat less meat, to really pay attention to how far our food is traveling. I feel it's my calling to teach the masses that we can all make small steps toward a better life through the food we eat."

Christian's transition occurred when he started to wonder where his food was traveling from and where his garbage was going. Previously, under the impression that nature was plentiful and endlessly abundant, Christian started to feel accountable for the hormones and antibiotics in the meat he was serving, for the garbage he was dumping, and for the herbicides and pesticides in our water and soil. "It was then I knew I wanted to help create a zero impact, healthy community. I was no longer comfortable running a business that crushed the planet and the people all week and then walking for breast cancer on the weekend," says Christian.

His former catering operation, Greg Christian Catering boasted the first zero waste kitchen in Chicago. He also implemented a stringent mapping regimen, in where every ingredient that entered his kitchen was mapped to emphasize impact. In the midst of his for profit endeavor, he launched Organic School Project, a program within Chicago Schools that aimed to teach children a more mindful way of living through the cultivation of a garden, wellness programs within curriculum, composting and more. He believes OSP "is the reason he is on this planet," as he quotes within his memoir. Now, as founder of Greg Christian Consulting and author, Christian aims to help the masses achieve sustainability.

"This book is the first of a series I hope to publish surrounding my vision of greenness for the world," says Christian. "My larger goal is for our entire nation ultimately to return to local food systems, those that are entirely organically-based and self-supporting. I know that it will only be achieved if there is a large outpouring of public demand and support for it, and I hope I can help provide the education needed to achieve this." Christian says.

"Food and Forgiveness: How a Chicago Chef Came Around," will retail at $19.95 and will be available via foodandforgiveness.com. It will also be available for order through most bookstores.

ROASTED LOCAL VEGETABLES WITH GREENS This nutrient rich dish is basic yet versatile. Transform it throughout the year, depending on what produce is locally and seasonally available. This flavorful recipe brings out the inherent personalities of the vegetables while remaining healthy. Adding garnishes increases the complex layers of texture and flavor. Serves 4

Seasonal vegetables (ex: spring = carrots, summer = tomatoes, fall = squash)
Asparagus Radishes
In season salad greens
2 lbs washed whole garnishes according to personal preference
Olive oil for cooking
Salt and Pepper
Dressing
1 cup strawberries
1 cup mango
3 cups rice vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

Cooking Directions: Wash all of the vegetables by immersing them in water. Dry salad greens by patting them dry and laying out on towels on a counter or table. Chop the vegetables the way that they want to be chopped. Place pan on a burner with hot flame. Add a few drops of olive oil to the pan. Add the chopped vegetables and cover the pan with the lid. Cook about one minute. Using the lid will shorten the amount of time it takes to cook the vegetables, thereby reducing the amount of energy consumed. Season with salt and pepper. Let vegetables cool to room temperature. This is important because if you add them to the greens while hot, they will wilt.

Make the dressing in a blender. Assemble in this order: greens, vegetables, dressing, and garnish.

About Chef Christian

Greg Christian is considered one of the leaders in the restaurant industry's zero-impact movement. Recognized as "Chicago's Conscious Caterer," he recently launched Greg Christian Consulting to help restaurateurs, hoteliers, caterers, associations, and all types of food-service management achieve sustainability goals that help the community and environment. To learn more, visit gregchristianconsulting.com


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