There is a difference between being inspired by a message and acting upon it. Action is the theme of the third annual Roots conference at The Chef’s Garden in Milan, Ohio because conference organizers hope what transpires during two days of conversations between culinary world luminaries leads to more than just a temporary rallying cry that fizzles out once everyone has returned to their posts beyond the green fields of the conference.
The Chef’s Garden has always been at the forefront of innovation and change in the food and agricultural industries and the Roots conference reflects a desire to trigger a dialogue that resonates long after the conference concludes. Conference organizer and host, Lee Jones says, “Roots emerged out of our hope that presenters and attendees will take what they learn at the conference back to their kitchens, laboratories, farms, and offices and apply it in ways that foster real and lasting change.”
The schedule brims with presenters who have devoted their lives to impacting the food world in positive ways. Through a diverse range of topics and presenters such as, “From Line Cook to Revolutionary: The Chef Activist” with Barbara Lynch, Michel Nischan, and Matthias Merges; “The Roots of Tradition: How Chefs Can Take Action to Improve Their Own Lives” with Seamus Mullen, Gavin Kaysen, and Curtis Duffy; “Quenched: Clean Water for Everyone” with Buey Tut, “Trash: The Global Food Waste Scandal and How to Rectify It” with Jordan Figuieredo of the The @UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign; and more, attendees will be provided templates to embolden and strengthen their own work.
“Our goal is to give attendees an immersive experience that provides them with networking opportunities and tools that will empower them when they emerge from what we want to be an experience that lingers in their minds, a memory they return to again and again for the motivation to keep pushing in their own work,” says Jones.
Ohio is a fitting locale for such lofty ambitions. The Chef’s Garden is located in the heart of America’s breadbasket, far from the noise of urban living yet just an hour from Cleveland International Airport. There is little to distract conference attendees from the narrative that unfolds at Roots save for the beehives on the edge of the property, the river running alongside the farm, and fields that nurture some of the nation’s most esteemed produce.
The meals at Roots are extensions of what will be discussed during the conference, transforming themes such as trash food, vegetables, and tradition into dishes that will be as thought provoking as they are triumphant. Each bite will celebrate a food culture that has moved beyond the age of mindless consumption into a new era of conscious eating, mindful growing, and dynamic conversation.
The organizers of Roots hope that the conference will spark in attendees the desire to do something extraordinary in their own working lives that will resonate long after the conference concludes. We have the power to take action in a way that will right decades of wrong. The goal of Roots is to invigorate attendees to take action in their own lives, flush with new wisdom gleaned, and strengthened by the message that collectively we can restore our food system, one small but potent action at a time.