Beverly Stephen / August 31st, 2012
The first annual Chop It Up! fund-raiser for Wholesome Wave drew a diverse crowd of some 300 chefs, activists, artists, and community leaders dedicated to supporting the group’s mission to “make healthy local food accessible and affordable for all” on Sunday, August 26, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Slam poetry artists were paired with chefs in an entertaining food fight of recipes and rhymes. Not that exciting? This was no sedate poetry reading at the library. It was more closely akin to rap, and the audience was as vocally enthusiastic as a gospel congregation. The poet Stephen Colman was charged with enacting Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan’s mother’s fried chicken recipe and brought down the house with his chicken imitation. Check out the video. Poets Mahogany Browne, Vanessa Hidary, Steve Colman, and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai enacted recipes from chefs Ty-Lör Boring, Joe “JJ” Johnson, and Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan. Singer/songwriter Goapele wrapped up the evening with a concert of her poetic lyrics set to a fusion of jazz, soul, and hip-hop.
The event was catered by Jon Vaast of Westport, Connecticut’s Dressing Room, Johnson of Ted & Honey, Terrain’s Westport Garden Café, and Great Performances.
The performance was a culmination of a week-long celebration called New York City Gets Fresh!, which began with a health walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. During the week, 18 participating restaurants, including Rouge Tomate, Bar Boulud, and Ditch Plains, featured specials made with locally sourced ingredients.
Wholesome Wave was founded in 2007 by Nischan, former under secretary of agriculture August Schumacher, and Food Arts’ late editor-in-chief Michael Batterberry. Today they have partners in nearly 30 states, operating farmers’ markets at more than 300 sites and working with almost 2,500 farmers. Their signature initiative is the Double Value Coupon, Program which enables consumers in underserved communities to buy twice as much for their food stamps at participating markets.