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Hari Pulapaka, Ph.D., C.E.C. Headshot

From The Ivory Tower Kitchen: Why Chefs Can and Must Lead Movements of Social Change

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Every day, a single tweet or post by a famous chef seems to garner the interest and following of thousands of loyal fans and followers. While it may pale in comparison to the buzz generated when a movie star does the same thing, I would argue that chefs are uniquely equipped with the tools to be at the forefront of positive social change. We are trustworthy, credible, and passionate professionals unrivaled except only by educators and physicians.

Day in and day out, we are trusted to nourish the bodies, minds, and even spirits of our guests. When a guest orders a dish from our menus, we've been entrusted to ensure that the result will be a creation which is both satisfying and safe. So easily, an oversight or lackadaisical attitude can lead to a poisoning of the human body. That is a responsibility that chefs should and do take most seriously. We embrace your trust in our ability to not harm you and we inherently promise to teach our staff to do the same. In fact, I think anyone who works in a commercial kitchen should swear to uphold this responsibility. And those of us who have pledged to promote the use of untarnished ingredients in our creations are inherently also safeguarding the guest from harmful preservatives and additives. You should trust us and we should safeguard that trust.

Chefs are also credible sources of knowledge about ingredients, flavor, nutrition, and even culture. The best chefs are close to their ingredients and know how to present them in the tastiest and most uncompromising form. In this age of seamless virtual and physical travel across the globe, we are often also telling you a story on the plate. Our stories are laced with cultural, historical, and even political statements. We are keenly aware of the social issues of our time and often, we are trying to share a story of celebration in our creations.

Chefs are a passionate bunch. Some of us exude this quietly while others are vocal and gregarious. The manner notwithstanding, we are passionate about our opportunity to create and make our guests happy. We are passionate about learning new techniques, ingredients, and flavor combinations. We are passionate about making the world a better place by supporting equality and prosperity for all. Chefs are among the most altruistic professionals. We give freely of our time and our knowledge.

Chefs are natural-born leaders. In fact, being one is a prerequisite to having that title. It is only fitting that our values, actions, and abilities be best utilized as tools of positive social change, both locally and globally.