With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this week on April 22, it’s a good time to reflect on, and celebrate, the bounty of Mother Nature. One of my favorite ways to do this is to weave it into my cooking. Have you thought about how you plan to celebrate Earth Day this year? 

At the CIA, we say “Food is Life.” It nourishes the body and soul, and has the ability to sustain the world. As chefs, it is our responsibility to nurture our guests and make decisions that help preserve the Earth, for without its bounty, where would we be?  

While The CIA at Copia is a public hub for food and wine discoveries, it also serves as the home to CIA’s Strategic Initiatives Group, which leads industry efforts such as Menus of Change®, a collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Global PlantForward Culinary Summitfor which I am the executive chef. These initiatives bring together foodservice professionals to discuss current trends and how decisions about menus, recipes, and ingredient selection impact our planet, our health, and our industry. The longterm vision of these initiatives is one that integrates optimal nutrition, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility within the foodservice industry. The end resultdelicious, healthy, sustainable food.  

An ongoing focus of these initiatives is the opportunity to draw inspiration from global cuisines in moving toward a more plant-forward diet. After all,  for many cultures, it is already inherent to their way of life, rather than a sacrifice, and also happens to be better for human health and the planet. For example, in many other cultures, meat is an accent rather than the main event, whole grains and legumes are prevalent, and vegetables take center stage enhanced with global spices, aromatics and flavorsculminating in a delicious dish California’s natural bounty enables us to be plant-forward yearround so we are especially fortunate. 

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I invite you to join in our efforts through the food choices that you make and the dishes that you cook. For inspiration, CIA has a variety of free videos at plantforwardkitchen.org/videos, as well as hands-on plant-forward cooking classes that will resume this summer. In the meantime, following are a couple of my favorite recipes. 

Spicy Kung Pao Tofu with Peanuts and Zucchini Noodles
Chipotle Chilaquiles with Chicken, Mushrooms and Chard
Stewed Portuguese White Beans, Chard, and Chorizo with Poached Eggs

Happy cooking and happy Earth Day!

Toni Sakaguchi
Executive Chef, Strategic Initiatives Group
The Culinary Institute of America