Friday, May 25, 2012

Mindy Segal in the Month of May

May has brought more than flowers and sunny days to the Taste of the Nation crew. Tickets for the August 8th Taste of the Nation Chicago are selling like crazy, and the various ticket packages feature a slew of new and unique experiences. We've secured 25 mixologists to sling back cocktails all night, and will have 50 elite chefs on hand to prepare their signature dishes.

But perhaps the biggest excitement this month was the news that Mindy Segal - TOTN Culinary Council Member and Hot Chocolate chef extraordinaire - was named outstanding pastry chef at the James Beard Awards in New York.

Chef Mindy Segal
We've sung Segal's praises before, for her prowess in the kitchen and her commitment to Share Our Strength, but seeing her win the award after being nominated six times is quite thrilling. Her accomplishment is the perfect opportunity to spotlight just one of the incredibly talented individuals whose efforts support Share Our Strength's mission to end childhood hunger by 2015.

After finishing her studies at Kendall College, Segal earned cred on the Chicago culinary scene by cutting her teeth at notable restaurants like Ambria, Spago, Charlie Trotter's and mk. She gained a reputation for creating dishes that put an innovative spin on American-style classics like the cult favorite "Cake-n-Shake." But there were bigger things to come. In 2005, Segal opened the doors to her very own restaurant, Hot Chocolate, in Bucktown. The menu features everything from savory snacks to full entrees and of course highlights her specialty - dessert. Hot Chocolate reflects Segal's trademark creativity (check out the ice cream list) and her commitment to sourcing the finest in-season and locally produced ingredients available. This month, you can find spring rhubarb popping up in house-made jam, risotto pudding and a country buttermilk cupcake. Hungry yet?

We are proud to have Mindy Segal on board with Share Our Strength, and beyond excited to feature her creations at the Taste of the Nation event this August. Her involvement signifies what our event is all about - bringing together great chefs to do great things. Congratulations, Mindy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Get Local and Get Giving, All Year Long

While we're all looking forward to chowing down for charity at the Taste of the Nation event this August, there's plenty you can do to help combat childhood hunger in Chicago year round. We're still learning more about what's out there, but here are two local non-profits that are providing some pretty amazing food services to their communities.

Eden Place Nature Center

Photo by Katherine Millett for Chicago Wilderness Magazine

Some argue that food tastes better when you work for it, and Eden Place Nature Center aims to prove that theory. Located in Chicago's Fuller Park neighborhood, the center is a lush nature preserve nestled amongst gritty concrete and freight train tracks. Through partnerships with local schools, Eden Place offers Fuller Park children the chance to experience nature firsthand, teaching them to compost dirt, tend to farm animals, and sow sees for planting. The organization has exposed over 20,000 children to urban agriculture and the importance of getting nutritious food to eat. The children's farming efforts haven't gone to waste, either - Eden Place sells homegrown produce and eggs at a Saturday Farmer's Market throughout the year.

How to get involved: Volunteer to work with Eden Place's plants and animals, or help out with one of their events. You can also donate to Eden Place directly, helping to sponsor projects such as a permanent building for student groups and the ongoing MonarchLive project.

First Slice

First Slice Pie Cafe

While Eden Place promotes a back to nature approach, First Slice shows that nutritious can also mean delicious. The Ravenswood not-for-profit was founded by Chicago chef Mary Ellen Diaz and its mission is to provide high quality meals to families in need. To do that, Diaz enlists the help of a robust Chicago population: resident foodies. Buy some pie at the pie cafe, hire First Slice's community supported kitchen to cater your next event, or subscribe to receive three chef-prepared meals a week - each tasty option fuels First Slice's community outreach efforts. The organization provides meals to the Howard Area Alternative High School, Broadway Youth Center, The Center on Halsted and more. Each meal prepared by First Slice comes with fresh vegetables, fruit, and organic meat. And their pies - which I can attest to from recent firsthand experience - are a true slice of heaven, with options ranging from traditional apple to the more adventurous tabasco cream.

How to get involved: If you'd like to go further than just buying their food, First Slice also offers ample opportunities to volunteer. Contact them directly for information on serving local meals or helping to prepare food for the kitchen and the Soul Food Pantry Bus. They also accept donations.