Friday, June 3, 2016

Interview with Chef Adam Hanry

Chef Adam Hanry

Last Saturday, May 29th, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Adam Hanry in the Camp Mitchell kitchens.  He is a very interesting person, and has much to say in support of the farm. 

First, more personal details.  Chef Hanry has been a chef for 18 years, 7 of which have been spent at Camp Mitchell.  Camp Mitchell is the third nonprofit he has worked for, one of which was Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, where he achieved the rank of Executive Chef.  He started out working in restaurants, but it was only as a chef in the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute that he started seeing the potential of food as an art form.

Despite the fact that he thinks of himself as an artist, he believes the chef is the "weakest link" in the process of making food, since all he really does is "put some fire to  it."  He says that his assistant Samantha Johnson is great to work with and really really carries him.  His hobbies include reading nonfiction about football.

When Chef Adam talks about "food," he refers to the way people harvest the ingredients, the way they prepare them, and finally to the way they dispose of the waste -- in other words, the complete life cycle of the food.

"I know almost all chefs [in Arkansas]," he has said.  "Camp Mitchell Agricultural Project is the best farming program in the state in part because of the proximity to the food source.  If a visitor asks me how fresh the lettuce is, I can say it was picked two hours ago.  Other programs can't compete with that."

He also said that the campers love doing things like learning about growing food, feeding the chickens, gathering the cooking ingredients, and helping their counselors to dispose of food waste in the compost. "You can't put a price on that educational system."  Chef Adam believes this close relationship with food, or "cooking the right way," is the most responsible, moral way to prepare it, and that makes what he prepares all the more delicious. 

The mission of Camp Mitchell is to provide a spiritual center where guests can come and be at their best.  Food done the right way is an essential part of that spiritual, creative atmosphere, he believes, even though it is not economical.  Welcoming fellowship and food creates the environment for something special.  He says that the guests care about the mission of the camp, and it helps people keep coming back. 

For example, a beading group came to visit recently, and they adored the food.  When Chef Adam told them about how and why Camp Mitchell cooks the food the way it does, they immediately scheduled another visit afterwards.  Letting the Camp's guests know about our mission and values, he believes, also helps that mentality to spread. Hopefully, more people will start to farm sustainably and use the food gathered from that in their meals.  Movements always have to start small, after all.

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