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The First Lady of the Organic Food Movement

Chef and restaurateur Nora Pouillon is Washington, DC’s- and the nation’s – Forever First Lady in the world of organic food and sustainability. When she arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s from her native Austria, our country was on a diet of processed foods and agricultural products treated with chemicals -and in too many communities still is. Determined to feed both her family and her customers healthy, farm fresh food like she grew up eating in Europe, Nora set out to find local farmers to supply her food. It wasn’t easy but Nora was committed to finding a better and healthier solution to serve

local, seasonally prepared meals.
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Restaurant Nora opened in its 19th century red brick building in 1979 (the same year McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal just to give you an idea of what many Americans were eating). Twenty years later in 1999, Restaurant Nora became the first certified organic restaurant, which means 95% of all ingredients must be produced by certified organic farmers, growers and suppliers. Thank goodness Nora stuck to her guns; many restaurants don’t even last 20 years.

Nora has received countless awards, too many to list here. But what struck me at the panel discussion where she spoke about Chef-Activism is how she cultivated farmers and helped nurture their businesses by organizing bus tours to introduce DC area chefs to the farmers. In the process she sustained both their businesses and hers by helping ensure the viability of their farms. Nora also initiated DC’s first producer-only farmer’s market, FRESHFARM Markets, which now includes eleven markets in the metropolitan area.

nora-in-market

These days “Farm-To-Table” is a frequent phrase in restaurants around the nation. Sustainability and ethical cooking are top of mind. We all have Nora Pouillon to thank for leading the way. She recently announced plans to pass the torch at Restaurant Nora. Somehow we know there’s an interesting new chapter to be written. If you haven’t read Nora’s full story, check out this book. And listen to our show here:

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Catching the Wholesome Wave with Food Activist Michel Nischan

Some people let change happen to them. Others see opportunities to make change happen for others. Chef and Food Activist Michel Nischan, President and CEO of Wholesome Wave, is a leading example of the latter. Michel joins us on The Connected Table LIVE April 8, 2pm ET on W4CY

Michel-Nischan
Michel Nischan, Wholesome Wave

I first met Michel when he was a rock n’ roll chef at his restaurant Miche Mache in Connecticut. I’ve followed his career through his restaurants (Heartbeat at the W Hotel in Manhattan, The Dressing Room in CT)  and books Sustainably Delicious (Rodale),  Taste Pure and Simple  and Homegrown Pure and Simple (both Chronicle Books).

Michel has been a food activist long before other chefs were starting to flex their muscles and their mouths on the subject.  Growing up in a farming family, food production and appreciation for sustainable agriculture is in his genetic root stock.

In 2007, Michel  founded Wholesome Wave  with Gus Schumacher, former Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food & Foreign Services, as Founding Board Chair, and the late Michael Batterberry, Founder of Food Arts Magazine, as Founding Board Member. In 2008, Wholesome Wave piloted the Double Value Coupon Program at 12 markets in three states. Since then, the organization has launched numerous initiatives, including the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program and Healthy Food Commerce Investments and is recognized as a compelling model for expanding regional food access.