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How Minneapolis's Restaurant Industry Would Change The World Through Food

How would you change the world through food? Local experts weigh in.

To mark the relaunch of Eater today, the Features team compiled a collection of seventy-two of the best ideas for how people around the world are or how they plan to or how they want to change the world through food. A lot of the ideas are incredibly earnest. Some are ambitious beyond reason. But what they all have in common is a belief that, with hard work and good food, the world is headed in the right direction.

As a local component to this feature, we asked the Minneapolis community to chime in. So check out the national responses over here and scroll below to see what local thinkers and doers would like to do to change the world through food. Have a suggestion? Add it to the comments.

Gavin Kaysen, chef/owner of  Merchant: "I would make the food in all schools more accessible, healthy and delicious."

Eat Street Social. [Photo: Katie Cannon]

Andrew Zimmern, James Beard Award-winning host of Bizarre Foods: "Before we start thinking about feeding our hungry planet 50 years from now, although that's an important issue to be sure, I would like to see us focus on feeding our hungriest and neediest today. Ending food waste that's as high as 40% in some states, means feeding more hungry children. 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry in America, that's a shameful state of affairs in the greatest country in the history of the world. Sadly food access, wellness and health is a class issue in America, but there are some easy fixes. Subsidizing food resources from American farms to the least fortunate is smarter than subsidizing corn as it makes it way to Fortune 500 food companies. Lets incentivize entrepreneurs working on plant based food products like the ones coming out of Hampton Creek Foods. Lets loosen antiquated restrictions, eliminate double taxation and create jobs through private/public partnerships  that allow the elderly, the incarcerated, the hospitalized and anyone else receiving meals touched by public funds to receive real food cooked by real people. There is a lot of emotional talk in the entertainment side of the food world that lauds the "big hug" that we all get from food. But the people who need it the most, our kids, the elderly, those residing in our penal system need the dignity and respect of decent meals, and the wellness of real food.

Speaking of which, our schools are no place for Big Food to be hijacking our children's good sense when it comes to making healthy choices. Our kids need real nutritive meals across the board. My job as a dad is hard enough, I don't want, and shouldn't have to fight for my child's attention with people looking to put processed sugar into his meal plan. Based on what we know about sugary sodas, sweetened milks, corn syrup and the like, I don't really see how those putting those foods in front of my kid is any different than someone popping him a beer. They both seem like crimes when it comes to issues of choice and the welfare of our children.

Lastly,  we need to broaden our appreciation for and our access to all foods. As Americans we eat a diet from too narrow a range of foods. We don't need to eat insects once a week beginning tomorrow morning (although that would be great!),  but going meatless once a week, eating small fish with their heads a few times a month, mainstreaming 'alternative' proteins like goat, venison, rabbit and so on would eliminate our reliance on irresponsibly raised livestock and poultry. Tax grants, insurance breaks and other incentives for entrepreneurs operating in those silos makes sense for a sustainable economy too.

The math is easy. Waste less, eat sensible portions, eat from broader choice of real foods, eliminate harmful processed foods...that's a prescription for making our food system work again for us all."

Corner Table. [Photo: Katie Cannon]

Nick Rancone, co-owner of Corner Table: "The best way to make a positive change in someone's life is to allow them just relax; open up 2 hours of their day, that's all, and share a meal, or even enjoy one alone.  I'm not saying we all have the luxury to be able to partake in that every day, but more frequently than we allow ourselves to currently.  Make time. Go to a restaurant, or cook at home, turn off your phones, be present in the moment and just eat and drink and relax. Allow yourself to really take it in, the food, the wine; focus on what it evokes, strip the stresses of the day or week away and connect with one another.  It can be profound when you can remember, respect and connect with that.  It will all be waiting for you when you step back out of the bubble, but let's not forget why we are here.  Enjoy life.  Taste the food. Drink the wine."

Scott Pampuch, executive chef of University of Minnesota's Dining Services: "Food needs to be in people's consciousness, not their subconsciousness. Too much time is spent looking at food, and assigning no value to it. Food needs to have a self worth. It needs to be considered health, pleasure, community, language and money. Food needs to be respected. This all can be accomplished if everyone gets a chance to meet food for the first time again.  To appreciate it for what it is in that moment. That is my goal.  I want to introduce people into food one more time, and correctly."

Nick Kosevich, co-owner of Bittercube Bitters, president of North Star Bartenders Guild, co-owner of Eat Street Social: "If you want to change the world, you need to start in your backyard. I think we are already changing the world through food and beverage in our community. The North Star Bartenders Guild that we created here five years ago, has raised thousands of dollars for local and national charities. In addition to this the increasing elevation of bar programs locally around the country are raising the collective palate of our communities. Not only are we raising money by drinking, we're educating imbibers on what to be drinking. In a nutshell I will spend the rest of my life's work creating snooty philanthropists."

Amy Thielen, host of The Heartland Table, James Beard Award-winning author of The New Midwestern Table: "Increasingly, I'm thinking more and more about feeding the present hunger. (Actually, who am I kidding? "What I'm going to eat next?" has been on my mind since day one.) But in a big picture way, I mean that we should really try to eat the right thing at the right time: good, honest, nourishing homemade stuff that fills us up literally and spiritually. For example: Raw vegetable salad in the heat. Hot oxtail broth in the rain. Perfect apple pastries on random afternoons. Spicy curry when you're feeling down.

There's a lot to be said for eating food that fits the moment. I wrote a whole book on eating food that fits the place (the Midwest), but you can go further. Food that fits my mood is my everyday occupation. I don't know about everyone else, but my mom taught me to listen to my cravings. "What are you hungry for?" she'd ask, daily. It's not a throwaway, small-talk sort of question. If you really tune in (and press beyond simple sugar cravings) you notice that you might crave orange things, like sweet potatoes, or bananas, or red meat. Maybe your body needs those things.

I really believe that good food feeds the body and spirit equally. Think about it: have you ever had a really bad lunch? That's a missed opportunity to make yourself happy and give your body something honest to run on. Bad lunches are depressing, whether you focus on it (like I do) or whether you feel just an irritation.

Here's the other thing: food that fits a place and a moment usually makes the most financial and cultural sense. For example, in northern Minnesota, we should be eating more wood-parched wild rice. A country-wide run on real wild rice (the brown stuff, not the black stuff) would be good for the local tribes who harvest and parch it, and it would be good for all local economies. I read recently that only 8% of the wild rice that grows naturally is harvested, and it's arguably our most nutritious (protein-rich) native grain.

When it comes to changing the world, I'm a believer in the power of thinking micro before you think macro. If kids grow up learning to listen to their cravings, who knows what will happen in the food world?"

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