Awareness Wednesday: Chef Michel Nischan

Stephanie celebrated Columbus Day by making a trip to the New York Botanical Garden last Monday and she had quite the treat! Chef Michel Nischan, sustainable food movement pioneer and one of the leading voices championing for healthy food access for all, happened to be there and Stephanie got the chance to chat with him for a little while. You may be familiar with the award-winning chef and cookbook author, but today he’s best known for his role as a food policy activist.

Stephanie with Michel Nischan in the Edible Garden Conservatory Kitchen
at the New York Botanical Garden,

Michel Nischan is the Founder and CEO of Wholesome Wave Foundation: a nonprofit organization whose mission is overhaul the nation’s food system and “nourish neighborhoods by supporting increased production and access to healthy, fresh, and affordable locally grown food for the well-being of all”. Wholesome Wave has most recently been in the news for helping struggling Gulf families get access to fresh local foods by bringing farmers’ markets to needy communities and allowing shoppers to use “green food stamps” to get double the value in produce and other food items.

Chef Nischan is no stranger to working with big names and big philanthropies. He teamed up with actor and philanthropist Paul Newman in 2006 to open Westport, CT-based Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant with a vision of neighborly hospitality, local, natural and organic ingredients and regional American heirloom food. Newman’s Own Foundation then funded Wholesome Wave’s beginning the following year. Today, Wholesome Wave works in conjunction with Dressing Room to create grassroots initiatives that celebrate local food systems and heritage recipes.

Stephanie with Michel Nischan and his son Ethan

Michel and his wife have five children, two of which have Type 1 diabetes, so he and his family have roots in eating for preventative health. At home, he cooks mainly with grapeseed oil because it has the highest flash and smoke points of cooking oils. That means it can be heated to higher temperatures than other oils like olive oil or canola oil before vaporizing or burning and creating free radicals which may cause cancer. Although polyunsaturated oils are generally not suitable for cooking, grapeseed oil is less volatile than other polyunsaturates because it is low in gums and other impurities that occur naturally in oils. Grapeseed oil has a light, neutral taste which makes it suitable for most cooking applications as its smokepoint is between 425°F and 475°F. Extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, is better suited as a cold or warm condiment because of its inability to withstand temperatures above 325°F and loss of rich flavor if exposed to sustained heat.

If you have some free time, we recommend checking out the Wholesome Wave Foundation website and blog— they have some really great information about what they do and how you can get involved!

1 Comment »

  1. We all love to eat. Good to see some food professionals working on healthy food options and giving back in this manner. I also will be giving the grapeseed oil a try.

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