James Beard Foundation to Hold Policy Boot Camp in Bentonville

CBC_LOGO-web-newChefs and politics are a good blend, according to the James Beard Foundation (JBF), which is holding a private boot camp in Northwest Arkansas next month to train a group of chefs in food-related public policy.

The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change will be held at the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Ark. Sept. 7 – 9, with 15 chefs from across the nation who applied with JBF and were selected for the program, including Bentonville chefs Bill Lyle and Case Dighero of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Matt McClure of The Hive / 21c Museum Hotel and Rob Nelson of Tusk and Trotter.

“Everyone agrees that chefs are the new rock stars of our culture,” said Kris Moon, senior director of strategy and development for the prestigious food-centered organization. “When they speak, people listen. For these chefs, advocacy begins as simply as deciding what to put on the menu, and goes all the way up to (Top Chef judge and restaurateur) Tom Colicchio testifying on the Hill about the Child Nutrition Act.”

The event will train participating chefs on tactics needed to effect change in public policy, using the example topic of food access and affordability. Sessions include a policy briefing and practice on setting goals, establishing audiences and creating networks of supporters for a particular cause.

Chefs from a previous JBH Boot Camp enjoy a lighthearted collaborative dinner together.

Chefs from a previous JBF Boot Camp enjoy a lighthearted collaborative dinner together.

Although food access and affordability is a topic most chefs are on board with, Moon said the boot camp is mainly a springboard to help chefs champion the topics that are most important to them.

“Our goal is to arm chefs with skills to choose their own topics and make their voices heard,” Moon said, “from how to use your voice to actually making things happen.”

Once chefs have graduated from the boot camp, they have the support of the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Network (CAN), which supports advocacy work through special events and communications support. Last year, Moon said, JBF and CAN started helping boot camp graduates hold salons in their own cities on topics important to them.

“We had a boot camp graduate, Hari Pulapaka [of Cress Restaurant] in DeLand, Florida, who wanted to use his advocacy skills to promote local foods in central Florida,” Moon said. “We helped him hold a local salon this past January, which brought in two dozen chefs, food press and procurement folks from Disney. It ended up being huge, resulting in the Greater Orlando Food Leaders Alliance, the hashtag ‘#sunshineplate’ and the goFLA Manifesto.”

Chefs who are interested in joining a future boot camp or otherwise getting involved with the Chef Action Network at a local event should fill out a boot camp application on the James Beard Foundation website: http://www.jamesbeard.org/education/bootcamp.


Participants in the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change in Bentonville:

  • Hugh Acheson, Atlanta
  • Ashley Christensen, Raleigh, NC
  • Erika Davis, Atlanta, GA & Nassau, Bahamas
  • Case Dighero, Bentonville, AR
  • Scott Drewno, Washington, D.C.
  • Dan Kluger, NYC
  • Anthony Lamas, Louisville, KY
  • Jordan Lloyd, Easton, MD
  • Bill Lyle, Bentonville, AR
  • Matt McClure, Bentonville, AR
  • Thomas McNaughton, San Francisco
  • Rob Nelson, Bentonville, AR
  • Holly Smith, Seattle
  • Ana Sortun, Boston
  • Digby Stridiron, Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Eric Wadlund, Palm Springs, CA


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