By Ashli Savoy
While at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, last month, I had the opportunity to witness a powerful exchange between U.S. Culinary Ambassador for Clean Cookstoves and famous Chef Jose Andres and a group of African chefs who were catering the event.
‘Day One’ of the Summit began with much excitement as sessions unfolded and entrepreneurs networked over coffee and practiced pitching their business ideas. But this exchange wasn’t a part of the official agenda – Chef Andres requested to meet separately with all of the chefs who were working at the Summit. The group of about 30 chefs from a medley of African nations gathered in a courtyard -- where lunch had recently concluded wondering what Chef Andres might have in store for them. I also wondered and followed along with colleagues to capture the encounter on video.
Chef Andres shared his personal story with the chefs, detailing his days as a young aspiring entrepreneur who moved to the United States from Spain and faced rejection and challenges but remained persistent as he pursued his culinary passions. Chef Andres shared that the biggest lesson he learned in the kitchen and in life is to never be afraid of failure -- a valuable lesson that has guided his journey to success over the past 20 years. Chef Andres now owns more than 21 restaurants and a food truck in the United States and has become an internationally recognized culinary innovator and advocate for food and hunger issues.
Chef Andres challenged the African chefs to broaden the way they think about food and their craft by showing them a video about three innovative dishes he had created for his restaurants. One was a fusilli pasta dish from his minibar restaurant in Washington, D.C., which is made from Parmesan water that’s been frozen with liquid nitrogen and then injected with fresh pesto, topped with a 63-degree Fahrenheit egg and truffle.
The methods used to create the foods in the video were far from ordinary, which is exactly what Chef Andres wanted to share with the group. He challenged each and every one of the chefs to think outside of the box and to value their work in a new way, as being a chef is an important profession and has the power to change the world.
He also highlighted the global hunger challenge. The world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, with the bulk of that growth concentrated in developing countries. To feed all these people, world food production will need to drastically increase and innovative measures will be required. On the frontline of feeding these people are chefs, just like those in the group that worked at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. By speaking to the African chefs, Andres hoped to inspire them to think of innovative solutions to the global hunger challenge and to consider how they could use their craft and expertise to address issues in their community – such as the use of outdated cookstoves and the health hazards they pose.
Four million people around the world die annually from smoke-induced diseases, an issue Chef Andrés has worked in Haiti to address, and an issue familiar to many of the African chefs. Chef Andres shared how he is working with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to bring cleaner materials and more modern cookstoves to local houses and kitchens and introduce families to innovative solar kitchens that help reduce pollution, decrease the chances of lung disease, and improve the lives of many children forced to spend 2-3 hours a day gathering wood for their families to use for cooking.
I was inspired by how Chef Andres used his personal story and enthusiasm about entrepreneurship to engage and empower a group of people -- who weren’t even at GES in a delegate capacity -- to think more critically about some of the issues around food, hunger and cook stoves in their communities and how their work can be a powerful tool to positively address them. This encounter amplified two broader and ongoing themes from the Summit: Anyone can be an entrepreneur; and entrepreneurship can be a powerful vehicle for good in local communities and the world.
As President Obama mentioned in his speech at the Africa Union a few days after the Summit concluded, Africa has no better friend and partner than the United States when it comes to building a better future -- this includes empowering Africa’s entrepreneurs. His signature initiative on global hunger and food security, Feed the Future, is one way the United States is helping Africans create opportunities to innovatively solve problems like hunger and poverty in their own countries and around the world. Everyone has a role to play in nourishing our growing world.
About the Author: Ashli L. Savoy serves as Managing Editor of DipNote. She was on assignment to support the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya, July 24-26, 2015.
For More Information:
- See more highlights from the 2015 Global Enterpreneurship Summit.
- Learn more about the Feed the Future Initiative.
- Find out how the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is changing how the developing world cooks.
- Find out how the USA Pavilion at the Milan Expo is highlighting innovative solutions to global challenges.
- See more at: http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/08/10/us-culinary-ambassador-encourages-chefs-change-world#sthash.RYr7ayjb.dpuf