Chef Brandon Talks Leadership & Policy at James Beard Foundation Boot Camp

This summer, I had the opportunity to take part in an incredibly inspiring weekend: the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. I spent two days at a farm in New York with 13 other chefs from around the country, talking about the current landscape of food policy in the United States and how we, as chefs, can use our voice to have a positive influence on that policy. This is the 15th boot camp the Foundation has hosted, and we were chosen from over 800 applicants- a pretty cool honor for me!

During the boot camp, I learned a ton about food policy. We discussed everything from the farm bill to the current state of our country’s agriculture, and even did role-play exercises to learn how to talk to policymakers about current issue and initiatives. Some of the statistics are staggering. I learned that the only major industry Americans trust more than food and beverage is technology, and that 74% of Americans believe the food and beverage industry should participate more actively in finding solutions to food and nutrition policy. They’re looking to us, as chefs, to help figure out major policy issues!

Chef Brandon along with the chefs and James Beard Foundation leaders who participated in the boot camp.

I also got to experience the incredible Glynwood farm. The 225-acre farm is focused on cultivating and maintaining the vibrant culinary landscape of the Hudson Valley. They teach organic vegetable and livestock farming and ranching, and how to successfully incorporate the two to create a sustainable farming model. During the boot camp, we experienced the taking of life and butchery of a whole goat– an education in how food truly goes from the farm to your table. We then cooked a huge dinner together in the farmhouse kitchen, using much of the goat as well as an amazing array of other vegetables and goods from their farm and a few surrounding farms. It was all displayed so beautifully on the main table… it was like Top Chef, except we weren’t competing for ingredients,

To say that my time spent there was inspiring is really an understatement. Right before we left, we learned some incredible statistics regarding our reach and influence. The Foundation told us that the Twitter content shared during our time at Glynwood had reached 500,000 accounts. In just 36 hours. I was blown away! That statistic helped show me that as chefs, we have a community reach and a network that is far larger than I ever could have imagined.

On the flight home, I felt this incredible sense of what I am meant to be involved in in addition to being a chef. I have always felt that my experience with food could serve a greater purpose. It is a big reason why I started working at Project Angel Heart and continue to love what I do. And my weekend at the boot camp inspired me to do whatever I can to make sure that I am continuing my education surrounding it, and finding my niche of what aspect of food policy I want to focus my efforts on.

There are several other chefs in Denver that have participated in the Boot Camp, and I am planning a meeting with all of us in the coming weeks so that we can share our experiences, and hopefully discuss how we can work together to create some tangible change within our own community and our own state. There is a lot of work to be done if we are going to ensure that our children, and our children’s children, will have the access to quality, nutritious food that will continue to sustain both the nations’ economy and overall health for years to come. 

Chef Brandon FosterBrandon Foster began his life in the kitchen at the Best Western in Frisco, Colorado almost 18 years ago. His passion for ingredients and drive to learn technique led him down the mountain to Denver, where he worked in two of Denver’s most fondly remembered restaurants, The Fourth Story and Mel’s. He joined the crew at Vesta in 2005 as a line cook and became executive chef in 2010, focusing on getting back to the roots of cooking through charcuterie and seasonal ingredients. Ultimately, Chef Brandon’s career highlights centered on events like Plates for the Peak, Invest in Kids, and James Beard Foundation dinners where he could play a role in helping people in need- a passion that led him to Project Angel Heart in 2016. Outside of the kitchen, Chef Brandon enjoys spending time skiing, camping, golfing, and eating with his wife Larissa and their three kids.