Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Local Chef Prepares to Host the World at CFS {Edible Monterey Bay}

Here's a blogpost I wrote for Edible Monterey Bay: click to read it there. It went live yesterday, May 13, 2014. ~CMM

Local Chef Prepares to Host the World at CFS
Story by Camilla M. Mann
Photos courtesy Asilomar Conference Grounds

As chef Danny Abbruzzese, executive chef at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, prepares to host some of the world’s premier chefs at Cooking for Solutions (CFS) this weekend, he shared some thoughts about community, food, and sustainability.

“Working with chefs of this caliber is very inspirational,” he says. “It brings me back to why I committed to a life in the culinary arts.”

Chef Danny is one of nine Aramark chefs who will be featured at the Cooking for Solutions’ Meet the Chef event. And he is paired up with chef Jamie Malone, executive chef at Sea Change in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who was named one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2013.

Cooking for Solutions—in case you’re unfamiliar—is an annual culinary experience where the chefs from around the country convene at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to celebrate and showcase sustainable cuisine for three event-filled days. The chefs for Thursday’s preview event are tasked with creating one or two dishes using sustainable ingredients, namely local produce and sustainable seafood.  They will then serve their creations to special guests, media, and celebrity chefs including Alton Brown, Carla Hall, Nathan Lyon, and many more.

Chef Danny has helmed Asilomar Conference Ground’s food operations for nearly five years and, along with his team, he embraces all the tenets of Aramark’s Green Thread Environmental Program. Green Thread is an environmental stewardship program that assesses, improves, and measures the environmental impact of their business practices—from food purchasing to energy and water conservation, from transportation to waste management. He embraces the efforts and appreciates the structure and support that he gets to move Asilomar’s conservation efforts forward. “I strive to be a leader in environmental sustainability because we need to think about the long term,” Chef Danny explains. “We take on short term challenges that will affect us long term.”

In that vein, Asilomar Conference Grounds has partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, whose recommendations are science-based, peer reviewed, and use ecosystem-based criteria. Partners commit to purchasing and serving seafood only from sustainable sources. Additionally Chef Danny has a long-standing tradition of working with local producers to use high quality, seasonal ingredients. “It’s very important to support the local community,” he says, adding that he sources his produce from forty different farms within a fifty-mile radius of Pacific Grove.

Sustainability isn’t all glamour and galas; it has its challenges. He admits that to inspire people to embrace sustainability, they need to understand why it’s so important. “Education is the biggest challenge.  We have to get people to understand what it means to be sustainable and how it will affect our future.”

Though he didn’t disclose all of the details of the dish he plans to prepare, Chef Danny did share that it would be mahi mahi with a crispy ginger slaw. Mahi mahi, a mild, sweet-tasting fish with firm white flesh, is considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because it is fast-growing and the fishing gear used does not cause significant habitat destruction. His dish will feature seasonal produce from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista.

From the lavish Friday Gala, to the more intimate Food & Wine Adventures and a decadent new Saturday night dessert party, Cooking for Solutions attendees will be dazzled by chefs such as Chef Danny, savor fine food and wine, and discover ways to save the oceans—one meal at a time.