Michel Nischan & Greg Drescher
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Michel Nischan & Greg Drescher

Chris Styler / April 2006

Food Arts presents the April 2006 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to chef Michel Nischan and Greg Drescher, the senior director of strategic initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), for sounding a clarion call to healthy dining through compelling flavors without recourse to dietary fads. Although they stand at different portals of the foodservice industry, they sing in unison about their goals: comb the global larder and the kitchen garden for all that's authentic, pure, and delicious, and good health will follow.

Already a veteran chef, Nischan came to the public's attention at Heartbeat, the restaurant in the flagship W hotel in Manhattan, where he slyly stood healthful dining on its head by ingeniously using vegetables, fruits, grains, and beneficial oils as the basis for everything from sauces to pancakes. Nischan continued spreading the word about local, organic, picked-ripe produce through his books: Taste Pure and Simple, a James Beard Award winner, and Homegrown Pure and Simple. In his next book, about the emerging diabetes crisis in the United States, Nischan proposes a healthy eating plan for families.

Recently, Nischan helped develop the restaurant Pure, "a blend of Eastern and Western wellness philosophies presented in eminently edible form" due to open in Bandra, India, this summer. And on the grounds of the Westport (CT) Country Playhouse, completely redone thanks to husband/wife actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, he will be chef/owner of The Dressing Room, Newman's Own®, which is also expected to open this summer with an on-site farmers' market and a proposed Edible Schoolyard.

Drescher, who rose to his current position two years ago, takes his message to the pros. Drescher, with the CIA for 11 years, minted the new gold standard of professional summitry, the Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival, held every November for the past 10 years. Among the offspring of that first conference is the annual Worlds of Flavor Baking & Pastry Arts Invitational Retreat, in partnership with Food Arts, which last month convened under the title Flavor Design & the Experimental Pastry Kitchen: In Pursuit of Pleasure, Health, and Well-Being, and Worlds of Healthy Flavors: A Leadership Retreat and New Media Initiative for Chain Restaurants, Hotels, Supermarkets, and Volume Foodservice. The latter, presented with the Harvard School of Public Health, brings 30 of America's most influential corporate chefs and foodservice leaders face-to-face with the real, inherently healthful culinary traditions of such far-flung places as southern Mexico, Turkey, Spain, and India.

"The two megatrends shaping American foodservice are the long-term interest in the flavors of the world and health and wellness," Drescher insists. His conferences and retreats give leaders in the fiercely competitive world of casual and casual-quick dining an edge. "We can be having lunch at a market stand in southern Vietnam when the lightbulb goes on for one of the people we're traveling with. ‘I don't have to change a thing to put this dish on my menu.'" That "aha!" moment is what drives Drescher.