The past ﬁve years Oldways has remembered K. Dun Giﬀord, founder of Oldways, by honoring a New Englander with the K. Dun Giﬀord Local Hero Award.
The Local Hero Award, presented at Boston’s Readable Feast, an annual event celebrating food, food writing, and people who make a diﬀerence. The K. Dun Giﬀord Local Hero Award honors “a New Englander who through some medium of food (author, writer, educator, chef, grower, producer, activist, nutritionist) has positively aﬀected our local foodways.”
Since the inaugural event, the awardees include this group of accomplished and inﬂuential individuals:
2023: Chef Ana Sortun and Farmer Chris Kurth
For Chris, it all started at birth. His family moved to a nineteenth-century Sudbury farmhouse and started settling in. Chris grew up helping tend gardens, fruit trees, and a collage of farm animals his family raised for home consumption. In 1998, after studying biology, philosophy, and environmental studies at Williams College, Farmer Chris started a ﬁve-acre CSA farm on his parents’ ﬁelds and named it Meadow Brook Farm. After four years of developing Meadow Brook he accepted a farm instructor’s position at The Farm School in Athol, MA.
Now we need to get up to speed on Ana….
Her restaurant career began washing dishes, and after she took a cooking class from a graduate of La Varenne cooking school in Paris, she knew that Paris was her next stop. Not knowing a word of French, Ana spent two years in Seattle learning French before taking oﬀ for Paris and LaVarenne. Although she now says she might not have gone if she’d known how tough the classes would be, and how far from perfect her French was — she persevered – working at the school, learning a lot and graduating. Next stop was Boston, where she got a chef position, opening the Aigo Bistro in Concord Mass for the legendary Moncef Meddeb. She moved on to Moncef’s 8 Holyoke and then Casablanca in Cambridge. During her time at Casab, she met her future business partner, Gary Griﬃn, who managed the bar at Casablanca, and got an introduction to the food that deﬁnes her cooking. Sari Abul-Jubein introduced Ana to friends from Turkey he’d met at an Oldways Conference in Crete, and the trip to Turkey that followed was that magical introduction to spices, foods and a cuisine that changed her life. In 2001, Ana and Gary opened Oleana, and it’s been packed by happy diners every since, with Ana winning the James Beard Best Chef in the Northeast in 2005, just 4 years after opening the restaurant.
In 2005, Ana’s and Chris’ daughter, Siena was born. This spawned a new incarnation of the farm — Siena Farms.
Since then, the farm has grown to 75 acres of diversiﬁed produce, serving CSA members, chefs, and retail customers, year-round in Boston’s South End and at the Boston Public Market.
In recent years, Siena Farms launched their beloved Kids’ Farm Share designed to get kids into the kitchen and connected to their food, plus their many and varied versions of Community Sponsored Farm Shares and Employer Sponsored Farm Shares. This made it possible to expand access to Siena Farms produce for households throughout Eastern Massachusetts and New York City.
Always involved with Siena Farms, Ana has also expanded. Ana and her business partner, Executive Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick, opened Sofra Bakery & Café in 2008. Then, in 2013, Ana, with chef Cassie Piuma, opened Sarma, a Turkish-style meze tavern. Both are huge successes, busy all the time, with some of the most diﬃcult to get restaurant seats in town. A new Sofra is slated to open in Spring 2024 as part of the Harvard expansion in Allston.
Siena Farms continues to provide produce to the restaurants and underscores Ana’s commitment to fresh ingredients and healthy food. Ana and Chris are generous with their time and eﬀorts, giving to many local charities and needy causes like farms who had experienced great losses with the spring 2023 ﬂoods, as well as international ones, such as relief eﬀorts around the February 2023 earthquake in Turkey.
At Oldways, we are grateful for Ana’s eﬀorts as a member of the Board of Directors, and as our most frequent Chef Host of Oldways Culinarias – with ﬁve in Turkey, 2 in Greece, 2 in Italy and 1 in Morocco. Learning from Chef Ana is a huge gift.
Ana and Chris We celebrate you individually and together. Thank you from all of us.
2022: Congressman Jim McGovern
While Congressman Jim McGovern represents the Second District of Massachusetts – central Massachusetts including his home city of Worcester — in the U.S. House of Representatives, he truly represents people all around New England, US and the world.
He is a global leader on the issues of ending hunger, protecting human rights, and promoting peace. He believes politics ought to be about bringing people together, about listening to those who are struggling, and turning his experience into action to make life better for all our families.
As the Boston Globe wrote in a proﬁle of the Congressman on December 31st, “A Washington veteran better known for his tactical maneuvering as outgoing chairman of the lower chamber’s gatekeeping body, the House Rules Committee, McGovern is deeply and visibly passionate about ending hunger in America. He relentlessly presses people of import on it in nearly every conversation, whether with the president, Cabinet secretaries, colleagues in Congress, or advocates.”
Congressman McGovern has had many accomplishments of note since he was elected to the House in 1996 – but we are honoring Congressman McGovern for his critical work in the food arena – eﬀorts that have helped residents of his district, the Commonwealth, New England and the US.
Congressman McGovern has spent decades leading the charge to end hunger in America—working at the local, state, and federal level to ﬁght for change, build awareness, push for legislation to further invest in our anti-hunger safety net, and address policy failures that have created food insecurity. Too many to list today, among the initiatives, legislation and eﬀorts led by Congressman McGovern, two food-related programs stand out:
1. Creating the McGovern-Dole Food program, which provides nutritious meals in a school setting to nearly 9 million of the world’s poorest children.
2. The convening of the second White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health.
There’s so much more distance to travel, and certainly, Congressman McGovern will continue leading the way to ﬁght against hunger, help farmers, and improve life for his constituents, whether they be in the second district, or Mass, the New England region or the country. Dun believed that each of us can make a diﬀerence. Congressman McGovern, we know you believe that as well, and you certainly have made a huge diﬀerence for many. If Dun were here, he’d be applauding you the loudest. We all join him and say thank you! Read more about Congressman Jim McGovern
2021: Dr. Jessica B. Harris
Dr. Jessica B. Harris
Educator and culinary historian, Dr. Jessica B. Harris is a longtime friend of Oldways and is a member of Oldways’ African Heritage & Health Advisory Committee with strong ties to New England, as a frequent visitor to Martha’s Vineyard.
Jessica holds a Ph.D. from NYU and is an English professor at Queens College, CUNY. She consults at Dillard University in New Orleans, where she founded the Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures. Harris is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a member of the IACP and Les Dames d’Escoﬃer. Her articles have appeared in Eating Well, Food & Wine, Essence, and The New Yorker, among other publications, and she has been proﬁled in The New York Times. Harris has spoken about the food of African Americans on The Today Show, and Good Morning America, and at the Museum of Natural History, and has been a frequent guest at Philadelphia’s The Book and the Cook. In 2004, Harris was awarded the Jack Daniel’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was also inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.
She is the author of twelve cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora. Her most recent book is High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, and it has turned into the wildly successful Netﬂix series. She has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, lectured widely, and made numerous television appearances. To learn more about Jessica visit Africooks.com.
2020: Russ and Marian Morash
Russ and Marian Morash
Russ and Marian Morash are pioneers in so many ways—through television, gardening, restaurants and cookbooks.
Russ produced and directed a number of television programs for WGBH, beginning his career with science programs and children’s shows like Science Reporter and Ruth Ann’s Camp. He went on to specialize in DIY programming, including shows such as The French Chef with Julia Child, The Victory Garden, This Old House, and The New Yankee Workshop, among others. He’s won countless Emmys, and the satisfaction that his legacy continues.
Marian ﬁrst started cooking when Russ began working on The French Chef with Julia Child in 1963. Russ would bring home leftover food from the show and instructions from Julia on how to prepare and cook it. Suddenly, Marian went from cooking her usual tuna ﬁsh casserole to preparing things like whole goose stuﬀed with prunes that were stuﬀed with foie gras. This marked the beginning of her successful cooking career as a television cook, cookbook author, and restaurant chef.
In 1975, Russ asked Marian to cook vegetables as “Chef Marian” on his show, The Victory Garden. Up until this point, the show taught people how to garden and grow their own vegetables, but with Marian’s added cooking segment, viewers could now learn how to prepare and cook what they grew. Her segment became a hit, and the show inspired Marian to write The Victory Garden cookbook series, the ﬁrst of which was published in 1982.
The same year that Marian began cooking on The Victory Garden, she and her friend Susan Mayer were approached by Jock and Laine Giﬀord, friends of theirs who wanted to start a restaurant on the island of Nantucket. The restaurant would not be a professional kitchen, but rather a place that would serve the simple and delicious food Marian and Susan prepared at dinner parties, which Jock and Laine often attended. Marian agreed to give it a try, and the restaurant opened in 1976. She went on to run Straight Wharf Restaurant for 11 years and received the James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America Award in 1984. For a period of time, Straight Wharf had an all-women kitchen, aside from a young man who shucked oysters. This was unusual for a restaurant in those days—Chef Marian deﬁed the norm and proved just how successful a woman head chef could be.
Read more about the Morash’s.
2019: Jody Adams and Tom Kelly
Jody Adams and Tom Kelly
With many “best” awards for her food and restaurants, the James Beard Award-winning Chef Jody Adams is proudest of her work advocating for children’s welfare or combating hunger through her support of the Boston Food Bank. In 2010 she received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from Share our Strength. During regular visits to Haiti, she helps to shape and maintain the hospitality programs for Partners in Health facilities. Adams was also inducted to the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who” list in May of 2018.
Read more about Jody Adams
Dr. Tom Kelly
Dr. Kelly is Executive director of the UNH Sustainability Institute, which he founded in 1997, and the Chief Sustainability Oﬃcer of the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Throughout his three decades of national and international work in higher education, Dr. Kelly has focused on sustainability.
He co-edited and authored “The Sustainable Learning Community: One University’s Journey to the Future” (2009), is a founding convener of Food Solutions New England, and is a co-author of A New England Food Vision as well as the 2017 article “Equity as Common Cause: How a Sustainable Food System Network is Cultivating a Commitment to Racial Justice.” He is also a collaborative designer and facilitator of the Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute, and a founding convener of the New Hampshire Food Alliance. Additonally, Dr. Kelly was a founding member of the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium and the Inter-institutional Network for Food and Agricultural Sustainability (INFAS), a visiting scholar at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego, and a visiting professor of trans-boundary environmental issues in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands at El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico DF.
Read more about Thomas Kelly.
2018: Rebecca Alssid
Rebecca Alssid is a local hero. She didn’t just witness the culinary revolution. She was part of it.
For more than 30 years she created and fostered the culinary program at Boston University. Using her wits and connections in the New England, national and international culinary world she developed a premier experience training students for a culinary certiﬁcation and oﬀering cooking classes for the greater Boston community. She also ran the evergreen program for adult education, coordinated culinary tours in Europe, created the ﬁrst Master’s program in gastronomy, and also started the the Liz Bishop wine education program that oﬀers various certiﬁcations, and prepares students to go on to take the master sommelier program. Rebecca’s impact goes way beyond local, and she was a head of her time—thousands of students and food enthusiasts from all over the world have beneﬁted from her kind, but tenacious attention to bettering our knowledge of food and wine.
2017: Walter Willett
2017’s winner of the K. Dun Giﬀord Local Hero Award was a long-time friend and collaborator, Walter Willett of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Here are only a few of his remarkable achievements—accomplishments that have made a diﬀerence in the lives and health of people almost everywhere:
At a time when Americans were afraid of fat, with Oldways and colleagues at the HSPH and overseas, Walter helped create the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, featuring olive oil. He helped popularize using healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, peanuts, and avocados in an overall healthy diet like the Mediterranean Diet, instead of low-fat diets that were actually full of sugar and reﬁned carbohydrates. Walter also led the campaign in the US to get rid of trans fats in our food supply — and he succeeded. In fact, in June 2015, the FDA ruled that artiﬁcial trans fats must disappear from the American diet and gave food manufacturers three years to remove the partially-hydrogenated oils from their products. Walter also helped contribute to the fact that the demand for sugar-sweetened beverages is at a 30-year low in the US. Additionally, in today’s world of fake news, Walter is a calm voice of reason, backed by some of the best nutrition research studies, especially ones that he developed with his team at the HSPH (three large-population cohorts following more than 300,00 people).
Walter is still at it every day, speaking up against crazy headlines with solid science and simple explanations. Along with everything else, he’s published more than 1,700 original scientiﬁc papers along with the textbook Nutritional Epidemiology and four books with food and cooking advice for the general public.
Read more about Walter Willett.
2016: Frances Moore Lappé
Frances Moore Lappé
Frances Moore Lappé is a true visionary, pioneer and hero – both local and global. More than forty years ago, Frances Moore Lappé started a revolution in the way Americans think about food and hunger with the publication in 1971 of Diet for a Small Planet. It was the ﬁrst major book to note the environmental impact of food production and to oﬀer solutions. It’s called a classic reference for people who want to follow a diet based on plants.
Since then she’s written and co-authored 17 more books about world hunger, living democracy and the environment. With her daughter, Anna, she founded the Small Planet Institute, which focuses on solutions: From the crisis of needless hunger to that of democracy itself, the Institute oﬀers evidence-based solutions.
As you can imagine this is not her ﬁrst award – but we hope this one is as meaningful for her as it is for Oldways. As a huge admirer of Frances and the impact her books and work have made, Dun would have been thrilled to know Frances was the ﬁrst awardee of an award with his name.
Read more about Frances.