All Daniel Giusti ever wanted to do was cook and at 28 he arrived in the best restaurant in the world, Noma where he became Head Chef. Then at the very peak of his game, he walked away to try something completely different.
As an ambitious young chef, Giusti had a very clear idea of what success was – grinding it out in a fine dining restaurant, to the detriment of your physical and mental health. You could say that Giusti won that game, he was Head Chef at Noma. It doesn’t get more successful than that. But when he got there, he reflected on what success meant to him, and while he had an incredible experience in Noma, he wanted to try something different.
So he quit and returned to the US, where he began to look at institutions like hospitals, prisons, and schools. It was the latter that he felt he could make the most difference. Giusti figured out that he wanted to feed people and feed them often.
In a school in New London, Connecticut, with no business background, he started a company and began putting chefs in schools. He looked to abolish processed food and brought in ‘from scratch’ cooking.
The main problem confronting Giusti was that he had about $1 to serve a nutritious meal to a child in school. They prepared meals on a budget, that met the nutritional guidelines, but the kids hated what they were being served. For a year he ploughed on with the approach of what he knew was right for the kids, but after some time he began to realize that he had to change the way he thought about cooking.
Giusti realized that throughout his career, he had been cooking for himself. People would come to his restaurant to eat his food. At the schools, things were completely different, he had to appeal to the kids’ sensibility first and then impose his creativity.
“It’s a little pretentious and naïve to think that we know what a community should be eating. If you go into a community, if someone says ‘I want to help feed a group of people’, you listen first, and that’s the mistake that we made, we didn’t listen" - Daniel Giusti
“In this whole process, I’ve changed more about how I think about food than the people we feed. When you talk to these people, food is just a part of their lives, it’s not the most important thing to them.”
While Giusti went back to school to teach and to feed kids, in the end, he ended up learning more than he thought possible.
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