As the year 2000 approaches us, we prepare for one of the most amazing times for chefs. We have entered through doorways to meet some of the greatest minds and pioneers of our day, bringing us newer technology to provide food for our culture. Yet we also stand at the threshold of some of the greatest problems ever. We walk into the year 2000 with a new ray of hope and a Pandora's box of troubles.
The ever-growing legions of chefs that are now entering the food service industry are presented with one of the most distinctive problems approaching us today. As the earth's population has grown, reaching six billion people as of October 1999, so has the technology been stretched to provide for them? We are further extended to feed more and more people quality food. Producers of our meat, dairy, poultry and seafood are stretched to find ways to create more raw products than what was naturally possible and our farmers are asked to produce more grain and produce on diminishing farm lands. We are coming to the end of an era where food is plentiful and there is no need to search for it
Through science, the productivity of our farmlands has been able to stay ahead of urban sprawl. Will come to a point of rationing our food sources? This question brings back the thought of an old cult film called Soilent Green--a film based on the idea that an over-populated planet's government had to hand out rations of an unknown origin. How far-fetched was this film's frightening proposal? This past April I had picked up a Newsweek magazine. I started flipping though the pages looking for article to catch my interest. One article jumped out at me, " I Don't Like Green Eggs and Ham." (Newsweek, April 26, 1999, p. 12) The article's title caught my attention right away (being a fan of Dr. Suess) but I was surprised by the contents. " Industrial farming isn't just bad for hogs, chickens and the environment; it produces tasteless food." This was the opening statement and can be summarized by saying that the pork and the poultry industry, though industrialization, has created poor quality food at the expense of the environment and the quality of our food. The article only reinforced my conviction as a chef that I need to take a more active role in the development and demand of quality food sources.
Europe has taken action by boycotting many of our agricultural products and livestock due to the use of hormones and genetic alterations. The United States seems to have a mission to provide huge quantities of food for the masses at any cost. As the World Trade Organization summit took place this fall in Seattle, protesters showed great anger over the free trade of so many of our altered raw foods.
With these thoughts we could look into the next millennium with fear and dread. But we don't have too. There is hope! I have seen incredible advances in the production of organic foods and in the way farming is taking a different turn in the use of chemicals. Many restaurants are now using organic foods to create menu centerpieces. Vegetarianism is taking on new audiences and chefs are responding with elegant and tasteful alternatives to meat. People's diets are changing to take on new influences that are not only healthy but earth friendly. Chefs are taking on a more creative exploration of different ethnic foods empowered by adventurous and educated patrons. As chefs we need to clear a pathway toward quality food that will be able to feed the world in this new millennium. Seeking to keep quality in the balance with the growing demand to feed the world, we will be prepared to accept some of the many demands that will be coming with the new millennium