Mr. Nischan Goes To Washington

According to yesterday’s NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Michel Nischan is “usually found cooking in his restaurant in one of Connecticut’s toniest towns.”

That would be The Dressing Room, here in Westport.

Michel Nischan

But according to reporter Allison Aubrey, this week the world renowned chef was in Washington, DC. Nearly 1,000 “corporate movers and shakers” attended a summit aimed at shaping private sector solutions to America’s obesity epidemic.

Actually, Paul Newman’s erstwhile partner was not just sitting listening to lectures. He cooked up a storm.

A creative, healthful, and very, very flavorful storm.

Introducing Nischan, Aubrey said, “you don’t need fancy foraged mushrooms or Connecticut oysters to make a great first course.”

Nischan whipped up something that cost “pennies,” and included “anti-oxidants, fiber and all kind of wonderful things like that.”

He added an entree of heirloom grain risotto with autumn vegetables — a “seasonal feast on a reality-check budget.”

Nischan is “passionate” about seeing a sea change in the way Americans eat, the radio report said.

Aubrey went on to examine the small ways in which restaurant chains like Olive Garden, and retailers like Walmart, are leveraging size and scale to change eating habits (at no cost to their  bottom lines).

The piece ended as it began: with a focus on Nischan.

Chicken thighs call for creativity.

He roasted chicken thighs for the 800 summit attendees, adding cloves and cumin to “drive down fat, and amp up flavor.”

The guests loved the seasonal ingredients, and exciting food combinations. They cleaned their plates.

At least one corporation was converted. Hyatt Hotels announced a plan to remake some menus — starting with its kids’ meals.

That’s one small step for Michel Nischan. And one giant step for the nation’s waistline.

(To hear the full report, click here.)

8 responses to “Mr. Nischan Goes To Washington

  1. Thanks, Dan, for posting this significant, and actionable, news. Chef Nischan and the “1,000 corporate movers and shakers” were also joined by nonprofits like the YMCA of the USA, which announced that it is adopting new healthy living standards for youngsters in its child care programs.

    The guidelines grow out of discussions the Y has been having with First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America, a year-old nonprofit group dedicated to supporting Mrs. Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity. The new standards include offering fruits, vegetables and water at snack time, increasing the amount of exercise and limiting video games and television.

    As our community’s largest provider of child care services, the Westport Weston Family Y uniquely positioned to provide children and their parents with the resources and the support they need to live healthier. When it comes to changing behaviors such as quitting smoking, recycling and wearing seat belts, kids can often influence the rest of their families. So while Chef Nischan works his magic at the top of the food chain over at the Dressing Room, the Y will be doing its part to drive this new, healthy message home through our littlest movers and shakers.

    Here’s a link to the Y’s announcement and New York Times article reporting the news: http://blog.ctnews.com/westporty/2011/12/01/the-y-makes-commitment-to-advance-first-lady%E2%80%99s-efforts-to-keep-kids-healthy/.

  2. Michel is a generous and and talented man in many ways. His Wholesome Wave organization works nationally with 50 community based organizations managing 250+ farm-to retail venues to improve accessibility of healthful, local-grown produce particularly in inner cities. And he’s a cool musician who can be seen many Fridays playing with his group at the Dressing Room (my fave in-town restaurant).

  3. Michel Nischan has done great things with Wholesome Wave, but I highly doubt he has actually cooked anything at the Dressing Room in years. I’m not sure what role he plays in the restaurant anymore, but I’d be surprised if he is there more than a couple times a week. That being said, I’m happy he’s not in the restaurant and is doing something even better and more admirable with food (plus the food at the Dressing Room just isn’t that good anymore)

    • Odd how people use online platforms to bury their hatchets. I love Dressing Room. The food is simpler and better than ever. Michel owns the restaurant and has trusted the kitchen to his very capable and committed chef, Jon Vaast. Even so, he seems to be there every weekend guiding the helm. I’ve been there during the week and on weekends and happy to say it seems they are as busy as ever — and the food is always great. Michel and Dressing Room deserve the success they are enjoying.

  4. The Dude Abides

    “Toniest” sounds rather tacky. They must have thought he was cooking in New Canaan.

  5. Based on the portion / price ratio, the Dressing Room has been making Westporters skinny for years.

    • So glad someone sent me this link. I feel great being able to stand up for one of my favorite restaurants. I am on a budget, cook at home quite a bit, and avoid buying meaningless things like the latest game systems for my kids so I can feed them well. With the budget I struggle with, I find the food at Dressing Room very fairly priced, especially because of where they buy their food — from local farmers and other sustainable places. I can’t eat there as often as I like, but it’s one of the only places I go. I’ve done my homework. Most other restaurants in the area that cook as well clearly don’t spend as much on their food, yet they charge as much as Dressing Room. Maybe you should do your homework too — unless you don’t care about where your food comes from, which would mean you only care about price.