Executive Chef Cheyenne Luck
Location: Reston, Virginia
Number of people fed per day: 1,000
With Bon Appétit Management Company Since: 2002
Farm to Fork Farmer: Potomac Vegetable Farms
“Farm to Fork is such a cornerstone of what we do here. That’s what it’s all about really – the food, the flavor, the authenticity, the care for the land, and the thought that goes into cooking with such wonderful ingredients.”
Why I’m a chef:
When I was a teenager, both my parents were working and every family member had a night they were scheduled to cook. My sister and my dad would make things like frozen pizza on their cooking nights, but I’d come home from school, watch cooking shows, and then go to the store to buy the ingredients I needed. First I started out trying to recreate the recipes I’d seen exactly. Once I mastered that, I’d work on getting the timing down so that everything was ready at the same time. Finally I’d make adjustments to the recipe and I’d make the dish mine. That’s when I started cooking by instinct. I found that I really enjoyed creating dishes that pleased my family. My dad was pretty much a meat and potatoes kind of guy. One time I made spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and he loved it! He didn’t even know that it was squash. That was when I knew I could make people happy with my cooking. While I was in college studying, I noticed that the best part of my day was actually when I went to my job as a cook in a restaurant. I ended up changing my focus and going to Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life as it opened up my eyes to the possibilities in the field and reinforced my passion for cooking. After school I worked as a chef at a ski resort in Utah and then at a guest ranch in Telluride, Colorado, before coming to Bon Appétit Management Company.
What sustainable food means to me:
It’s about working together and making connections with both farmers and other chefs. During Eat Local Challenge in 2007, I teamed up with another nearby Bon Appétit chef and we worked together to source ingredients. We ended up getting 11 farmers involved, including a wheat farmer from only 90 miles away. The farmer not only grows wheat, but also has a mill on site. It was such a treat to be able to make breads and pastas from local wheat. We also worked with our local produce distributor to get them to represent several of the local farmers we found through the Eat Local Challenge, which helped these farmers reach new markets in the mid-Atlantic.
Low Carbon Diet was a wonderful experience here. For an entire week we showcased menu items with a lower carbon footprint than our usual menu. Instead of beef burgers, we made burgers from local turkey and chicken and we created vegetable burgers from black beans and sweet potatoes. Our pizza was made from whole wheat dough purchased from a local baker and topped with olive oil, garlic, herbs, and local mushrooms. No cheese! Some of the changes became permanent. We now make our own veggie burgers every day instead of purchasing them and because we also raised awareness about disposables through a big, eye-catching display of all the disposable containers we go through in a day, we see more diners eating in using our reusable plates instead of taking their food to go in disposable containers. Even though we changed some menu items and eliminated others, diners were for the most part happy to go along and most were amazed at how many wonderful choices they had that were also low carbon.
Why Bon Appétit Management Company is Different:
First, it’s about the food. It’s not everywhere chefs are given free rein to make the tastiest, healthiest food they can using the best ingredients. That’s what first attracted me. But, having originally been a forestry major in college, I already knew how important it is to maintain our resources. It’s great to work for a company that cares about both great food and the environment so much.