Elizabeth Helman Minchilli, and Annie Schlechter | Gallery

Rome Sustainable Food Project

Rome Sustainable Food Project executive chef Mona Talbott, center, with members of her kitchen staff including Gabriel Soare (back row, left, in bow tie); sous chef Chris Boswell (back row, wearing cap); Julia Cotts (right of Talbot); Domenico Cortese (front row, wearing cap); pastry chef Mirella Misenti (left of Talbott); and Alessandro Lima (far right, in bow tie). Photograph by Annie Schlechter

For over two decades, chef, author and Chez Panisse restaurant founder Alice Waters has been working tirelessly to change the way we eat in America. Four years ago, she sent chef Mona Talbott to put her words into action at the American Academy in Rome.

The Academy — a non-profit, privately funded institution founded in 1894 — fosters the pursuit of advanced research and independent study in the arts and humanities. It gives out the prestigious and highly competitive Rome Prize to more than 30 deserving artists, writers and scholars each year. But it served really bad food.

Enter Talbott and her team. With Waters's guidance, they reconnected the culture to agriculture by establishing The Rome Sustainable Food Project, an eco-gastronomic initiative that reinforces the Academy's core values through a healthy, collaborative dining program. Sourcing local, organic and sustainable ingredients, planting a garden and bringing the entire community to the kitchen and table, the program supports both creative work and conviviality.

Why is what is happening at a villa on a hill in Rome so important? While it's easy to encourage healthy eating at home, transforming an educational institution is another story. The Rome Sustainable Food Project has launched a delicious revolution with hopes of providing a replicable model for that can work anywhere in the world.

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Social Good

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