When you work in a company with 500 creative executive chefs, the last thing you expect to be asked to do, ever, is cook. Somehow, though, last Sunday I was preparing a four-course meal for 18 people I didn't know. Never mind how I misread the expectations of the gig I agreed to do, or why I agreed to do anything on a Monday when many of our chefs take the day off (and therefore couldn't make me look good).
The organization that hosted me as a speaker (and cook), 18 Reasons, is a nonprofit organization in San Francisco dedicated to engaging the community through food and art. Since I can't imagine a mission better than that one, my answer to their request was "Yes, of course." They wanted me to talk about the principles of the Low Carbon Diet I designed in 2006 and have been working to implement continuously within Bon Appetit Management Company cafés ever since. (It highlights the connection between the food system and climate change and attempts to change the way we eat through the 120 million meals our company serves each year.) Somehow the original request—"to lecture over dessert or an appetizer" —turned into a two-hour presentation and a tasting menu.
The lecture part was easy—I've given dozens of talks over the years—but what to prepare was the bigger question. Eating less meat, especially from ruminant animals, is a key tenet of the Low Carbon Diet, but this event was part of their Meatless Monday Series, so "less" became "none" this time, though I generally prefer to emphasize that using meat as a garnish is a great option.