Tuesday, March 17, 2009

UW-EC chef a delegate at slow food event

UW-EC chef a delegate at slow food event

By Blythe Wachter
Leader-Telegram staff

Christian Wise
Age: 47.
Residence: Eau Claire.
Occupation: General manager/executive chef of Blugold Dining at UW-Eau Claire. Has a background as an executive chef.
Education: Trained in the culinary arts in the United States and France. Graduated with a certificate of training from the Ritz-Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Paris. Studied at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Studied nutrition at Missouri State University in Springfield. Earned a law degree at Syracuse University.
Former jobs: Directed food services at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. Was executive chef at the University of Idaho-Moscow. Worked at high-end restaurants in Missouri and Pennsylvania. Owned a Springfield catering service. Worked as a lawyer. Taught philosophy at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

As the general manager/executive chef of UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Dining, Christian Wise advocates sustainability and using food bought locally or from fair-trade associates.

That emphasis is one of the reasons Wise thinks he was named a delegate to Terra Madre, the keystone event of the nonprofit organization Slow Food International.
A primary goal of Slow Food is to understand, disseminate, appreciate and ensure food culture and diversity, said Wise, who has written about food and developed a course on the ethics, history and culture of food at Millikin University in Illinois.

Terra Madre, which is held every two years, drew more than 6,000 delegates from 150 countries - including educators, food producers, chefs and young people - last fall to Torino, Italy. Wise, a Slow Food member, was one of more than 700 U.S. delegates.

The conference featured meetings, workshops and seminars focusing on small-scale, traditional and sustainable food production, along with an exhibition of food and textile products.

Terra Madre's broader focus is to ensure the survival of traditional food production methods and to ensure biodiversity continues to flourish, Wise said.

"We have a lot to learn from the past. Forgetting the past and forgetting our roots is not good," he said.

Terra Madre featured such notable speakers as U.S. chef, restaurateur and author Alice Waters and Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, as well as a message sent by England's Prince Charles, said Wise, whose employer, Sodexo, paid for his transportation.

This was the first year Terra Madre completely intertwined with the Salone del Gusto in Torino. Salone is a public exposition that offers seminars, workshops, and food and textile demonstrations.

"Traditional farming is under fire," Wise said.

Biodiversity means "mutual respect" and having an inclusive atmosphere for all types of growers, he said.

"One of the things that a lot of people feel is their voice is not being heard, and it's being squelched by the perceived need that only one way is right, and that way is what is perceived to be the most economically sound way to proceed," Wise said.

Slow Food is "anti-fast food," which produces everything in a standardized, uniform method and defeats cultural diversity, he said.

Wise puts his philosophy into practice at Blugold Dining at UW-Eau Claire, taking steps to be more sustainable.

"One of the things you learn as a chef is to economize and to create the least amount of waste possible. ... It seems like a natural transition to go from being a chef to being someone who wants to make sure we're being as efficient as we can," he said, adding this maxim transcends to other fronts, such as use of electricity, gas and paper.

Blugold Dining participates in a composting program; uses flatware, plates and hot and cold cups made of biodegradable materials; and contracts with a company that offers free-trade coffees.
Wise also focuses on diversity, serving ethnic foods at various venues. In The Dulany, which is open for lunch to students, faculty, staff and the public, "we use a lot of specialty foods," he said.

He has worked with members of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for International Education on campus on efforts such as Native American and Asian buffets, he said.

Candy Wilson, associate director of UW-Eau Claire's University Centers, lauded Wise's efforts on campus.

"He hasn't been there all of that long, but he has made such a tremendous difference in our operation here. He has executive chef training and ran his own catering business for a while, so he brings that breadth of experience," Wilson said.

"He is always looking for ways to buy local. He has instilled in his staff here, his managers, that fire for sustainability," she said.

Wise has worked with the Student Dining Committee, teaching informally in those meetings, she said. He also works with Foodlums, a UW-Eau Claire food club that supports awareness of locally grown foods and sustainable farming.

"I think the students, at least on the dining committee, really admire him for his ability to teach and also for his experience and his desire to do right by our Earth," Wilson said.

Wise said he will modify and apply ideas here that he harvested from Terra Madre on presenting foods and showing appreciation for different cultures and food production methods.

"I think it's important that food cultural diversity remains in play. I think that pure homogenization of food is not desirable, that learning about other cultures is important, and I have a long background of that. I've traveled a lot, and everywhere I go, I eat," he said.

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