Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Chef Bill Telepan of Telepan Restaurant, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Bill Telepan (BT): I had a job cooking at a restaurant during high school and loved it, so I decided to make a career out of it. The more I worked, the more I began seeing a connection between those who grow food and those who cook it. Over the years, I developed relationships with farmers and started seeing the quality of products I could have access to, how their work was great for the environment, and what nutritious ingredients really look like.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
BT: The food system as a whole needs fixing, from subsidizing factory farms to processed food in our schools. We have gotten too far away from cooking, and therefore, people are not as educated as to where their food really comes from. I think if we could find a way to get everyone to cook more, we could then demand a different kind of product—one that is fresh, one that is raised sustainably, and one that is delicious.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
BT: I’m most excited about seeing more urban gardens, more young farmers, and more local products getting into schools and urban areas where people wouldn’t normally have access to them.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
BT: I have a handful of food heroes, but Alain Chapel is certainly one that greatly inspired me. I apprenticed with him in Lyon, France, and he was the chef who made me understand the connection between knowing your farmer and finding a really high-quality product. He used to drive to the markets a couple of times a week and would come back and walk us through what he had purchased. I soon realized that if you start off with a quality product, you have a better shot at producing a quality product. From there, everything really opened up for me.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
BT: What drives me is to get better, clean food to all Americans—not just the people I feed in my restaurant. I’ve seen the positive effects that good, healthy food can have, especially through my work with Wellness in the Schools. Current culture norms can be shifted: I’ve seen children start to think differently about what they eat and have watched as educators embrace the concept that a healthy child means a more productive child. Knowing that we have more to do, and can make a huge positive change nationwide, is what drives me.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
BT: The making of fast, easy, cheap food. We now have a system where three major crops (soy, wheat, and corn) are way too important and therefore, diverse, real food is lacking.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
BT: I’d like to see more people educated on the current state of today’s food system.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
BT: Make the choice to cook more often at home.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
BT: Better food for every child in America.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
BT: I would like to see a shift in subsidies to small- and medium-sized farmers so they can grow diverse products, pay their workers better, and keep the land they grow on.
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