In this edition of Farming for Health, Amy Sapola talks with Chef Ismail Samad about his unique culinary journey and areas of expertise in creating closed loop food systems. A native of East Cleveland, Ohio, he returned home during the pandemic after more than a decade in New England.
After studying environmental biology in college, working in some of Cleveland’s top restaurants in Cleveland, and opening his own cafe (Crust and Crumbs) at the age of 23, the recession in 2008 derailed his plans for rebranding and relocating.
So, he went to Vermont where he worked more closely with farms. At that point, Ismail realized that he wanted to stop worrying about getting the perfect size and shape of produce; instead, he wanted to find creative solutions for the problem of food waste. He and a friend joked about opening a restaurant called The Compostery; instead, he opened The Gleanery that meshes culinary artistry with a focus on partnering with local farms and eliminating food waste.
Ismail flipped his perspective, now buying things from the perspective of a farmer, not a chef, and then turning that food into deliciously attractive meals.
After a move to Boston, he opened the Daily Table, non-profit grocery stores that addressed food waste and provided affordable groceries to an impoverished community. He also served as a director of Commonwealth Kitchen, a non-profit business incubator with a strong focus on racial, social, and economic justice.
Then, COVID hit and Ismail wanted to be closer to his family, so he moved back to East Cleveland. Once back in Ohio, he wanted to move with deliberateness to focus on community development, food distribution, and sustainability with a look at the area’s assets; he avoided a deficit mindset. The result? Ismail founded the economic justice non-profit organization, Loiter, and bought into Wake Robin Fermented Foods.
Now, with that introduction, here’s Chef Ismail Samad, speaking on Ferments, Food Insecurity, and Wasted Food.
Past Episodes of our Farming for Health Podcast
If you missed episode one, find it at Keto, Cruciferous Vegetables, Salt and Your Mindset; here is episode two: Cooking, Conviviality, and Preserving the Harvest.
Stay tuned for more!