How does having a voice create responsibilities and opportunities to drive change? Lee Schrager, creatorof the wildly successful South Beach and New York City Wine and Food Festivals, sits down with Chef Kevin Tien (Himitsu in Washington, DC) and hosts Debbie and Billy Shore to discuss the ever-greater influence chefs are having on culture and social change. “Thirty-five years ago, chefs were not superstars, they weren’t rock stars. Now people are listening to them,” says Schrager. Recently named one of the 10 Best New Chefs for 2018 by Food & Wine Magazine, Tien is very aware of his own rising influence. “Right now I’m at a point in my career where I’m starting to have a voice. With that comes the responsibility of doing what’s right, giving back and giving support where it’s needed,” he explains. The guests discuss the importance of celebrities having influence on a variety of societal issues from hunger to mental health. The group discusses the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain, who many of them knew.
They express disbelief that someone who seemed happy and was such a meaningful contributor to so many people’s lives through his adventurous food and culture show struggled with depression. “Mental illness masks itself in many different ways,” muses Schrager.
Both guests feel fortunate to have made careers of their passions. Tien worked in kitchens growing up but entered the corporate world after college. “I wasn’t happy, so I decided to quit my job and go back into cooking. It feels good to feed others, it feels good to give back, and I want to find a way to do it on a larger scale,” he reveals. Schrager attended the Culinary Institute of America but realized he did not want to be a professional chef. “I learned years ago you gotta do what you love and love what you do. And I love what I do,” he says. The New York City Wine & Food Festival is considered the largest food and wine festival in NYC, featuring 500 world-renowned chefs, culinary personalities, entertainers and wine and spirit producers. One hundred percent of the net proceeds benefit the No Kid Hungry campaign and Food Bank For New York City.