On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Hari Pulapaka, Executive Chef and co-owner of Cress Restaurant, talks about his plans for transforming the food system—using the stories behind food. “Ultimately food on a plate is not just about technique and ingredients: it starts with a story. The story being of the farmer, and the farm—that’s where the story of food begins,” says Pulapaka. “So one of the first things I did opening Cress was identify the folks in our immediate area in central Florida who have been growing food for quite some time. Some were the first generation, some were multigenerational farmers—so those relationships have gone back a long time.”
You can listen to “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” on Apple iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, Spotify, or wherever you consume your podcasts. While you’re listening, subscribe, rate, and review the show; it would mean the world to us to have your feedback.
Pulapaka opened Cress in 2008 with his wife Jenneffer, a podiatric surgeon with her own practice. Pulapaka is not only a chef, but also an author and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Stetson University for over 19 years. “And I’m not done,” says Pulapaka. “I’m trying to take more control over the things I get myself involved in. For me, even being a chef a moving forward is going to be different, in a good way, then what it has been.”
For Pulapaka, moving forward as a chef means working harder to tell the stories of local farmers at the table and encourage customers to do more to improve the food system. “Telling the stories of local farmers allows guests to be more strongly connected with their local community beyond the ingredients,” says Pulapaka. “they’re able to connect more to what they’re campaigning for in the food system… so they advocate more meaningfully for those kinds of things when they actually know the farmer.”
As an advocate himself, Pulapaka pushes for better food policy, less food waste, and a more sustainable food system. To expose the shortcomings of food policy, he and Jenneffer periodically participate in the Food Stamp Challenge, living on a food budget of US$4.20 per person per day. At Cress, Pulapaka confronts food waste by reusing food scraps as much as possible, then passing the rest to a farmer to compost and feed livestock. In search for a more sustainable food system, Pulapaka will release Sinfully Vegetarian, a cookbook that reimagines vegetarian food. “The sustainability reasons [to eat vegetarian] are evident because the production of non-plant based food is taking a clear toll on the environment,” says Pulapaka. “I can add a lot of value to the creative panel of vegetarian food in the U.S.”