We have a world class culinary school in Jersey City. The chefs are professionally trained and many work in the industry and come back to the community. They have amazing programming both with the culinary school itself and the larger community. The school is part of Hudson County Community College and at the Jersey City Summit I got insight into the mind of the President of the school Dr. Glen Galbert and the continued dedication to bring affordable education to the area.
Before we learned about the college at the Jersey City Summit, we got to know more about the culinary programming and community events at the Culinary Arts Institute at HCCC's first Food for Thought Event. We spoke to the organizers and they explained the importance of the event. "We held the First Annual Food for Thought event because we wanted to share the relevant work we are doing at HCCC’s Culinary Arts Institute. We are nationally recognized for our award-winning curriculum and we continue to be an institution where culinary and hospitality professionals, producers, enthusiasts and food industry experts gather together to learn about important factors affecting food today and discuss new ideas.
We feel it’s important to continue with this program to stay current on the ever-changing conditions shaping the food industry, to share creative processes and innovations and to keep the discussion going on how industry and community can work together to address challenges such as industrial farming, food insecurity, and food sustainability."
We thought the programming was great and we needed to participate. The event brought different food and community-conscious community members together to discuss how we can make Jersey City better. During the panel discussion we learned a lot and then got to know some of the companies even better during the demonstrations. Not to mention the food was delicious.
For the panel we heard Darcy Hutzenlaub, the organic farmer and administrator for Share the Harvest Farm, Thomas McQuillan of Baldor Foods, and Chef Christopher Albrecht Executive Chef at Ryland Inn. They each had their own perspective on community food action but the overarching theme was food action needs to happen.
Chef Albrecht works directly with local farmers to get his produce. He then realized that there was definitely an opportunity to barter and to work with them for produce he may not use. For example, canning products for them and he would get left overs of something else instead. It is about working with local businesses and striving to make the economy stronger. His kitchen also boasts a hydroponic farm.
Thomas McQuillan was brought into Baldor Foods for special projects, specifically to battle the food waste issue. While some of the food that is returned goes on sale for the employees, into the Balducci's stores, and to the schools they work with, they have a lot that is “not usable” or the scraps of the item. McQuillan thought of people using the whole plants and thinking in that mentality “created a sustainability initiative called “SparCs” (scraps spelled backwards), to re-invent the way people feel about unused food. He completely eliminated food waste from Baldor’s facility within a year’s time and the revolutionary program has served as a template for other corporations across the country.” Sparcs was still pending FDA approval in April, but it was all the veggies dried and ground into a SparCs powder that could be used in anything and added amazing nutrition to anything!
Darcy Hutzenlaub started as a volunteer years ago and now leads the charge across 6 acres of town owned land dedicated to the cause of feeding others through Share the Harvest. The organic produce is distributed to 11 locations on the East End feeding roughly 300 working families each year. Besides feeding families through their CSA program, they donate about 25,000 pounds of produce to local community organizations.
After hearing the panelists speak, there was a lively discussion on community food and how Jersey City has food deserts with no supermarkets and healthy food options. Business like Bone In and Made Meals spoke about working with local farmers and bringing the food into Jersey City. Sustainable JC spoke on the issues we find in our city and what programs they are working on like green walls and water programs. Hudson Kitchen is bringing food programming and an affordable commercial kitchen to Jersey City. In Jersey City, we have dedicated groups that work the community gardens and most are open to public to take and share. Also, most of the farmer’s markets accept WIC and SNAP, which help share and educate community members on colorful and lush foods. We also learned about Baldor's program that puts a fruit on every child's desk to start the day with their partner schools.
We then had break out sessions with the school, Baldor, and The Ryland Inn. We were able to taste the SparCs and see how they were created. We also learned about bread and sourdough starters from an HCCC Culinary Chef. The bread was delicious and they make it every day! Starters can be tens of years old and multiply! The other session was on seafood from the Ryland Inn, but we skipped this because we don't do seafood.
The day was a great day. We can not wait until the next event they have and to learn a little more and discuss more!
Pictured: Mory Thomas, owner of Square1, Sufia Hussain, Owner of Silly Chilly Hot Sauce, Djenba Johnson-Jones, Owner of The Hudson Kitchen, Lisa Lowrance Chambers of Meant Condition.
Photos provided by Culinary Arts Institute at HCCC