Event Review: Lecture: Cooking in a Sustainable World (Rochester, NY)

Event Name: Lecture: “Cooking in a Sustainable World”, presented by Executive Chef Joel Kraft, St. John Fisher College
Purpose: First Friday Lecture Series, sponsored by 1948 Society of St. John Fisher College, as part of the 2014 Alumni Weekend Celebration
Location: St. John Fisher College – Joseph S. Skalny Welcome Center
When:      Friday, October 3, 2014, 10 am
Cost:        Free


Event OverviewSJFC 1948 posterjpg
As part of the St. John Fisher 2014 Alumni Weekend Celebration, the 1948 Society of St. John Fisher College offered the first in a series of sustainability-themed lectures. The lecture, titled, “Cooking in a Sustainable World,” was presented by Joel Kraft, Executive Chef (Lackman Culinary Services), St. John Fisher College (and previously of the prestigious Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY).

The 1948 Society is a group of the college’s alumni who have pledged a monetary gift to the college through their estate planning. The First Friday Lecture Series, are presented on a themed topic, each month throughout each academic semester. The 1948 Society and the First Friday Lecture Series organizers teamed up to present this lecture.

I was excited to attend for several reasons. First, as a local alumnus of the college (class of 1990 and 2000), I was eager to attend my first Alumni Weekend Celebration and see first-hand all the recent changes on campus, including a few new academic buildings, as well as the new Welcome Center. Second, we have discussed sustainability in my current class “Introduction to the Hospitality Management Industry,” as part of the Culinary Arts program I am attending. The class and lecture topics melded together nicely. Third, I have become curiously interested in the topic of sustainability, and its application within the culinary field, as well as our daily activities.

The Venue
Held in the newly erected two-story, brick faced Joseph S. Skalny Welcome Center, at the front of the campus, the lecture was held in the upstairs Board Room. The college provided shuttle bus service from a nearby community park-and-ride lot, which was quit convenient, easily accessible, and ran frequently.

College representatives greeted attendees upon entry to the Welcome Center lobby, and assisted with registration and name tag distribution, as well as directions to the event room upstairs in the Board Room. Attendees had the option of using either the stairs or the elevator to get to the second floor.

The room was outfitted with long meeting tables and comfortable, upholstered chairs. A state of the art media system provided audio via cordless microphone, presentation capabilities with a ceiling projector and lectern, and access to video recording setup. Large windows along one wall allowed for a beautiful view of the campus, featuring Fall foliage and rolling hills. Amenities such as restrooms and an adjacent furnished mingling area were bright, clean and comfortable. The venue was much more welcoming and cozy than one would expect for a Board Room that accommodates over 50 people!

Food and Beverages
Both outside and inside the event room, the college provided a continental breakfast, which was continually kept replenished and tidy. The breakfast items were presented nicely, on linens in the college colors (burgundy and gold) and Autumn-themed paper napkins with clear, plastic plates and cutlery.

SJFC muffin

SJFC food table






The morning’s culinary fare included an assortment of soft, sliced bagels, various fresh pastries, and moist corn muffins decorated with Halloween inspired black, yellow and orange sprinkles. Bagel toppings included butter, jelly, and cream cheese – all conveniently individually packaged. Hot coffee with cream and sugar/sugar substitutes, and pitchers cold juice and ice water rounded out the beverage offerings.

The Lecture

Executive Chef Joel Kraft presented and informative, interesting, and entertaining lecture, on the topic of “Cooking in a Sustainable World.” Together with his sous chef, Wade Griffin, they charmed the audience with their mix of knowledge, experience and tag-team humor. Using charm, wit and a healthy dose of audience engagement throughout their power point presentation, they successfully brought to life what could have been an impossibly bland topic.

The overall theme of the lecture was to answer educate the audience on the following topic:

Sustainability has become an increasing concern in how we farm and consume foods.
However, there is a disconnect between the average person and where their food
comes from. Therefore, what can we do to make sure that we leave less of a “footprint” (or impact”) on the environment as a result of our food growing and consuming activities?

sjfc sustain tablejpg

I couldn’t possibly include in this post all the excellent material which they presented. However, I do want to touch on the highlights which seemed to resonate most with the audience (including myself), as follows:

  • Community Supported Agriculture Gardens (CSA) make small farms’ output accessible to more people.

A CSA is a group of farms funded (at least in part) by the community at the beginning of the growing season. This allows the farmers to use that money to continue production, rather than having to wait until each crop is harvested to get their income. The community members pay the farmer ahead of time and in return, each gets a curated food share throughout the growing season. With this, both growers and farmers share the risk and benefits of food production. One share in this area ranges around $250-$300 per season, depending on what share option and season you choose.

The benefits are wide and varied, not only for the farmer and the consumer, but also for the environment. The consumer not only saves money over the course of a growing season, but he also may be exposed to foods which he would normally not purchase. Wade commented, “You may not have tasted your favorite food yet.” Isn’t that a neat thought? Additionally, the consumer gets seasonal food, which is fresher and younger, which is more healthful overall. The environment benefits due to lower pollution costs in transporting produce. The farmer benefits because he has capital to pay his expenses before the crops are harvested.

Locally, one CSA, called The Good Food Collective, is used by Wade Griffin, the sous chef co-presenting the lecture. He manages its use at the college. This particular CSA offers shares for the four seasons. Consumers can take part via Pre-Box Share Delivery to your workplace or community or religious institution group, or via Green Truck Distribution at 5 locations throughout the Rochester area, where one can purchase their food on an as needed basis. To find out more about it, browse to thegoodfoodcollective.com

  • Farmer Co-ops

These consist of a group of farmers who work together to produce, market and sell their products. It is farmer-owned and each member gets a vote on how the group is organized and managed. Inherently, each community would have only one or two Farmer Co-ops because of how well each is organized to serve their community. These Farmer Co-ops are experiencing a 100% growth rate each year!

Locally, we have Farmer’s Co-op based in Ontario, NY, called Headwater Food Hub.

  • Farmer’s Markets

These consist of a gathering of mostly local farmers who sell their products in a common area, so that consumers can get access to local foods without traveling to each farming selling site. The benefits are many: seasonal and fresh produce, reduce transportation costs and environmental effects for both the farmer and the consumer, decreased costs to the farmer for storage and refrigeration, and a stronger connection between the farming and consuming community.

  • Making Sustainable Cooking Park of Your Life
    • Buy locally – CSA, Farmer Co-ops, Farmer’s Markets
    • Cook and eat seasonal food – same as the above, and/or start your own or community garden
    • Support Fair Trade – The USA is on the verge of driving more and better regulation to protest small farmers who provide crops for large corporations, with the goal to ensure that they get a fair price for their food

I truly enjoyed this lecture and I learned quite  a bit about how to utilize local resources to increase my participation in cooking in a sustainable world!




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