Professor Diba Khan-Bureau
Date of Speaker: Wednesday, March 12 2014
Sustainable Food Systems; Sustaining Ourselves and the Environment-1 Step at a time
John Turenne was the speaker for our sixth seminar class. I have to admit, he is an excellent speaker, very knowledgable about sustainable foods, and has a clear passion to change the world around him into a more sustainable place. The seminar started off with John Turenne’s background. Where he went to school, what for, where did he work, why did he work at certain places, and more importantly, what is he doing today? Going far back, before college was even in John’s head, he knew from the very start that he had a big passion for food. He said he would watch his mother cook, and then eventually started to cook himself, beans were the very first thing that he learned to make. That passion for food grew even stronger, that when it came to making the adult decision of where he wanted to go to school, he decided to follow the food pathway, and go to Johnson and Wales University in Providence Rhode Island, for cooking. Upon graduation, he worked in many restaurants, he loved it, but absolutely hated the hours, he was working when his friends were playing and vice versa. One day, a good friend had suggested to him that maybe working in restaurants is not suitable for him, but instead, he should try institutions. He then was hired to be a cook at an all girls catholic college very close to Yale University. Although he very much enjoyed his current job at the time, he still couldn’t help picturing himself working in the kitchen at Yale. Sure enough John Tureene’s consistent hard work had paid off, and he was asked to be the Executive Chef at Yale University. He definitely was under a lot of pressure at Yale, him and his chefs had the challenge of feeding 6000 students, three times a day, seven days a week, and on top of that, he was in charge of 13 dining halls and over 72 cooks! John Tureene’s seminar followed a story line type presentation, so throughout this essay, I will discuss his past to his present.
In 2001, John Turenne was getting ready for the big game day at Yale University. Stressed to the max, worrying about whether there will be enough food for everyone, making sure everything is going smoothly in a timely manner, he received a phone call from the president of Yale, wanting him to meet a parent. That parent was Alice Waters, who is the owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley California. Her mission with her restaraunt is to make sure that “cooking is based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally”. She is very passionate with having a food economy that is good, clean, and fair. With this being said, it is no surprise that because Alice Waters daughter attends Yale University, that her mission was to change Yales food system to be more sustainable. John Turenne had absolutely no idea what sustainable food was, so inorder to make a significant change, he needed to understand what it fully meant, so he decided to go back to college. From there on he learned that there are four pillars that define accurately what sustainable food is, “Sustainability in Food Service is simply defined as ‘a way of producing and consuming food that ultimately promotes the continuous well-being of ourselves and our planet’”(Turenne). Number one, nutritional well being, which is about our general health and how food significantly shapes it. Secondly, Environmental well being, the problem being the excess use of fertilizers, pesticides, genetic engineering or gmo, which both have a negative impact on our environment. The third pillar is sustainability of our local communities. It is not sustainable when our food has to travel over thousands of miles, instead the better solution would be getting involved with more local farmers. Last but not least, the fourth pillar is social justice, problems with sustainability and social justice is that there are large numbers of cafos, and animals given high dose too much and too often of antibiotics and such. After learning about sustainability, John Turenne was forever changed. He could not go back to feeding thousands of people unsustainable food, and decided to leave Yale because they were not ready for the change that he wanted. He created a team, and created the company “sustainable food systems”. This company has the mission of “Making the world a better place through better food.” He now works with institutions such as schools, hospitals, corporations, AND the white house. His company works to show the benefits of sustainable food, and that good food is cool, junk food, pre packaged foods, salty snacks, all the foods we typically see in our school systems, are not.
His mission with Sustainable Food systems is very inspiring, and I truly believe that he is making a difference in the world sustainably, which is positively. There are many benefits of sustainable food such as, higher quality menus, seasonal and bulk purchasing, direct purchasing from food producers, local sourcing for purchasing - which helps sustain farms and those food producers, and another big one, a huge decreased number of wasted food. Buying prepackaged food in large quantities, chances are there is going to be a lot of waste, which is not sustainable and not cost efficiently. John Turenne and his sustainable team helps places carefully plan, and teach them how to be sustainable, along with many college students that he travels to give lectures for.
This seminar was my favorite so far, I really enjoy food based seminars!