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How San Diego's Restaurant Industry Would Change the World Through Food

How would you change the world through food? Local experts weigh in.

To mark the relaunch of Eater today, the Features team compiled a collection of seventy-two of the best ideas for how people around the world are or how they plan to or how they want to change the world through food. A lot of the ideas are incredibly earnest. Some are ambitious beyond reason. But what they all have in common is a belief that, with hard work and good food, the world is headed in the right direction.

As a local component to this feature, we asked the San Diego community to chime in. So check out the national responses over here and scroll below to see what local thinkers and doers would like to do to change the world through food. Have a suggestion? Add it to the comments.

Jason Roberts, executive chef, Cafe Chloe: Change is not unlike food. With proper timing, hard work, and luck, you end up with something people recognize. The world can be made a better place through food, but it'll take the will of the people to make that change happen. The United States, in all it's glory, is a great representation of the broken food system plaguing nations worldwide. Like most things, change in the food system begins on a local level. As members of a consumer-driven society, we all need to demand access to clean and honest food. If we make enough noise, we can influence the legislation of our local governments. This legislation could require nationwide grocery chains to purchase food from local farmers at a (very) fair price to operate within that specific community, allowing farmers to pay their workers a living wage. This same legislation could help subsidize all facets within a localized food system, including school lunch programs, distribution, food-hubs, and farmers markets. On a global level, we need to create a commercial technology that connects world-wide (subsidized) local food systems to each other. This technology would provide local food systems everywhere with the ability to compete in a global economy and change the world.

Ryan Johnston, executive chef, Whisknladle Hospitality: I cook because I love to be make people happy. I believe that when you put delicious, great quality food in your body - food that is real, fruits and vegetables that were grown at a local farm, animals that were raised humanely, - when you put this food in your body you feel better, more alive.

Food can also be a great equalizer. The act of sharing a meal with someone, a group of a people or strangers is convivial and breaks down barriers. When this happens, we are just people sitting around a table, eating, drinking and having a great time. It may sound simple, but delicious food equals happiness and a happier world is a better place to live in.

The open-air main bar at Panama 66 in front of the sculpture garden. [Official photo]

Panama 66. [Photo: Mike Newton]

Clea Hantmann, co-owner, Blind Lady Ale House, Tiger!Tiger and Panama 66: Food naturally brings people together and gives them common ground - we got into this business to facilitate that communion over good food, local food, hand-made food, all at a fair price.

Su-Mei Yu, ower of Saffron, cookbook author and host of Savor San Diego: Cooking is our greatest creative process. Its intent is to nurture us while at the same time bringing us pleasure. The recent trend of cooking as entertainment is destroying these noble origins. Let us cook once again for health and joy.

Omar Passons, lawyer and craft beer advocate: If I could change the world through food it would be by bringing the costs to purchase in line with the true costs to produce so that farmers, growers, cooks, truck drivers and grain packagers (and their families) were compensated in line with the cost of what they do. If I could change the world through craft beer it would be by helping every community realize the potential of allowing people who care to make great tasting beer while taking care of the people around them.

David Spatafore, Principal of Blue Bridge Hospitality, Liberty Public Market: I would like to see the microwave be thrown out of American culture. Cook food from scratch not a box. Buy the freshest ingredients you can, and take the time to make eating well a part of a quality life. If you don't have the time to cook it, find a great local restaurant that will do the above for you.

I would like to see butchers, bakers and other food makers take back America's Main Streets. I still remember going to Glenn's Meats on 3rd Ave. in Chula Vista when I was a kid. The butcher would give me a raw cold hot dog to eat while mom shopped. I always looked forward to going to that butcher shop. Old school quality and passion for their's a shame they didn't survive. Go back to the way it was....the Europeans have been able to hold on to these cultural/epicurean values - we in America need to bring them back.

Jeff Jackson, executive chef, The Lodge at Torrey Pines:
Have dinner with your family four times a week by following these easy steps:
Step 1: Disconnect all electronic devices with the exception of hearing aids, pacemakers, and electric wheel chairs (where applicable)
Step 2: Prepare a wholesome meal utilizing fresh foodstuffs, simple techniques and love. All involved should partake of this important exercise.
Step 3: Set the table, be seated and indulge in your culinary creations.
Step 4: Have a conversation. (Some conversational topics might include: the preparation of the meal, your day, your dreams, your nightmares, the pythagorean theorem, Nostradamus predictions or the importance of thumbs on humans.)
Step 5: Laugh
Step 6: Belch
Step 7: Clear the table, clean the dishes and the kitchen. (This exercise should also involve all.)

Chelsea Coleman, chef/owner of The Rose Wine Bar and co-leader of Slow Food Urban San Diego: There are a lot of big-picture and systemic issues that need to be addressed before the world can be changed through food, but on a daily and personal level, I try to teach. I think that if more of us had the knowledge to grow and prepare fresh produce flavorfully and without waste, we'd solve a lot of our problems. Then, of course, the romantic in me thinks that if we took some time to sit down and share that food with our families and neighbors, we'd better appreciate the effort and love that went into nourishing ourselves: how can you change the world through food if you don't think it's an important part of daily life?

Jen Singer, Western Regional Coordinator Culinary Events at Share Our Strength: I'd like to change the world with food by finding ways to drastically minimize food waste by connecting food insecure individuals with extra resources from catering or culinary events, retail outlets or other food establishments.

Alysha Stehly, Enologist and co-owner of Vesper Vineyards and winemaker for Stehleon Vineyards: I want farmers to continue to do what they love to do, farm. I want consumers to eat real food and know where it came from. I want to encourage people to think beyond the act of eating and drinking, to be involved. I encourage people to become part of the food system in some way, no matter how small. So many people today care more about if something is organic or GMO free yet they don't even cook themselves. How can you care so much about the ingredients and farming methods then let someone else prepare most of your food or just heat something prepackaged up in the microwave? Be involved.

Learn where your food comes from, what the different labels truly mean (pet peeve of mine! So many consumers are misinformed on what organic means), learn how your food was grown and about those who farm it.

One of the biggest problems facing our food system today is regulations are being imposed on farmers without their input! Regulators and people who have never spent a day on a farm or even had a garden are creating rules and regulations that are making farming more and more difficult to be profitable. Some of the regulations are down right ridiculous! I want to educate as many people as possible on the realities of farming. Farmers care! They care about their land, their crops/animals, the people they feed and the ability to continue farming. They need to be involved in important rules and regulations that impact them. These decisions should not be made by regulators alone or by a ballot initiative. Farmers need to be involved in roundtable discussions on these issues, not left in the dark. I want to change the world through food by continuing to share the stories of our farmers and ranchers.

Sea & Smoke. [Photo: Lyudmila Zotova]

Matt Gordon, chef-owner of Urban Solace, Sea & Smoke, and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge: I wish for everyone to be more conscious of what's in their food and where it comes from and to eliminate all the unnecessary crap that's in our food.

Nate Appleman, culinary manager, Chipotle: I would like to help transform underdeveloped neighborhoods through restaurants, food and farming.

James Holtslag, co-founder and head butcher, The Heart & Trotter Butchery: Most people don't know that factory farming is one of the major causes of green house gas. Along with health benefits, sourcing meat from local sustainable farms can actually help curb global warming. This is something we all have to think about for our future generations.

Tommy Gomes, fishmonger, Catalina Offshore Products: How do I want to change the future through food? One fish at a time. Look, fresh seafood doesn't come out of the ocean already in boxes in perfectly breaded cookie-cutter portions. We as a country need to produce more food and rely less on manufactured, processed, and imported products. Real food isn't made in a lab. People need to get to know their food and where their seafood is really coming from. The best thing you can do for your family when it comes to seafood is to support local fishermen, think outside the box by trying types of fish you haven't eaten before, and never stop asking questions. If you don't care about the food you put into your family's bodies, why should anyone else.

Catt Fields White, CEO, SD Weekly Markets: My everyday routine involves lobbying for less government regulation and manipulation of the food supply, from campaigning for more urban-farm-friendly zoning regulations and reducing subsidies to commodity farmers to discouraging policies that encourage over-processing and mandate waste. Educating people to follow their food supply, get to know their farmers, demand better choices and vote with their wallets is making even Big Box stores take notice and start to modify their food offerings to include local foods, organics and other healthy options. We can make farm-fresh mainstream, we just need to keep preaching that gospel.

Charles Kaufman, founder Bread & Cie: Before the Civil War, just over 150 years ago, slavery was generally accepted by most in the United States. Today, condoning slavery is unimaginable.

I sometimes wonder what we are doing now that will be considered similarly incomprehensible and immoral in the future. My nomination: killing animals to eat them. I believe our great-grandchildren, or possibly even our grandchildren will find it hard to believe that we considered it morally acceptable to kill our pigs, cows, etc. to eat them.

How we raise, nurture and ultimately slaughter these docile animals is inhuman and wrong. Not to mention that harvesting this inefficient protein is deleterious for our bodies, our souls, and the planet we live on.

But here's the best part, which never leaves my conscience. Like the smoker who snaps at the guy next to him to "put out his cigarette", I eat meat at least two or three times a week.

So now what?

Rachel Marie Helmer, Marketing and Food Photography, Specialty Produce: I think to change the world through food two important ingredients are needed; knowledge and access. When I was growing up I knew there were apples, oranges, a handful of different potato varieties but I had no clue the incredibly vast amount of different fruits and vegetables that actually existed. Nor did I realize how delicious they could be if you pick items that are in season and prepare them properly. Knowing that these items exist is one thing, it’s also important to know what to do with them (i.e. the fabulous way cauliflower puree can be made into a pizza crust or the pure bliss of a crisp apple dipped in almond butter). I think some people are intimidated by produce because they aren’t sure what to do with it, how to make it taste like more than just health food. I have found though once you get people hooked on incorporating produce into their diets in a delicious way they are just that, hooked! It’s a combo of realizing how yummy REAL food can be and actually feeling better physically and mentally from eating it. Access and availability is also a super important thing too, finding ways to help make fresh produce as easy and affordable to get as (gasp) fast food or processed packaged foods. I think working on sharing those two things with the world could make a brilliantly positive change!