Giving Thanks with Recipes from Award-Winning Chef Michel Nischan

By Lisa Gosselin, "Giving Thanks," November/December 2011

Chef Michel Nischan is showing Americans a new, healthier way to celebrate the harvest by making farm-fresh fruits and vegetables accessible, affordable and, thanks to these easy recipes, utterly delectable.

"What a fantastic menu. We made everything except the celery root puree. The result was the easiest, most delicious Thanksgiving dinner we've ever had. Nischan has a gift for making recipes that deliver. We've been to the Dressing Room...

Nischan’s mother taught him to eat well and cook well. “I knew what fresh tomatoes tasted like and I could pluck and fry a chicken blindfolded by the time I was 12,” he says. She also pushed him into getting his first job, cooking at a truck stop. “But when I finally became a chef and went out to find the local farms and the food I remembered from growing up, I couldn’t find them. The small farms were gone.” While all of Nischan’s efforts have focused on healthy, often organic, local cuisine, he quickly realized that “if every white-tablecloth restaurant went farm to table, it would be a drop in the bucket” in terms of supporting independent farmers.

It was about the same time that his son Chris, then age 5, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “I had always been health-conscious,” Nischan says, “but after first Chris, and then my youngest son, Ethan, became diabetic, I learned a lot about nutrition and how much a diet loaded with produce could help us manage this and reduce risks of all sorts of other diseases.”

“That’s when we latched onto the SNAP program” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), a.k.a. government-­issued food stamps. Nischan realized that if just 5 percent of the then $33 billion (currently $64 billion) the government spent on food stamps went to buying local produce, it could have a big impact.

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