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The Chef’s Collaborative, the well-known non-profit network of chefs who champion a “sustainable food system through advocacy, education, and collaboration with the broader food community” was founded by Oldways in 1993. When its growth reached the level at which it could be self-sustaining, it became an independent entity in 1999. The organization’s tenets reflect many of the values of Oldways, particularly the importance of healthy traditional diets, sharing meals with others, and sustainable farming and fishing. Click here to read the 1993 Charter and Statement of Principles The Chef’s Collaborative was organized at a 1993 Oldways International Symposium in Hawaii called “Food Choices 2000.” This first meeting—a gathering of chefs and other like-minded sustainability advocates—acknowledged “chefs’ leadership in the celebration of the pleasures of food, and recognized the impact of food choices on collective personal health.” In short, the vision of Oldways and the Collaborative’s founding chefs placed key elements for promoting sustainability upon chefs’ shoulders because of their potential for educating consumers’ food choices and influencing buying decisions. As Oldways founder K. Dun Gifford said, “Chefs are increasingly more influential, whether it is about sustainability or hunger issues. Let’s face it, chefs know more about how to get people to eat peas and beans than anyone.” Throughout the next six years, Oldways and the Chefs Collaborative organized annual retreats for chefs, farmers, and journalists, each with a specific focus on how to solve the riddle of implementing sustainability into the mainstream. Some of the topics addressed over the years included:

  • Uniting food producers, ranchers, and farmers with local chefs to improve distribution and increase use of locally-produced products.
  • Addressing the ever-changing meanings of “organic,” “free range,” and other terms and standards used in marketing and selling food to the public.
  • Working with schools, teachers, administrators, students and parents to bring sustainable food and garden-to-kitchen programs in the schools.
  • Examining the connection between biotech and agriculture, and gauging the pros and cons of genetically modified foods.
  • Preserving and celebrating traditional diets and foods.

These concepts and principles continue to remain imbedded in Oldways’ programs and activities.