Michel Nischan: James Beard’s Humanitarian Of The Year

When Michel Nischan closed his Dressing Room restaurant in January 2014, the farm-to-table chef/pioneer said he wanted to devote his full energies to Wholesome Wave.

That national non-profit — based at the time in Westport, now in Bridgeport –helps underserved urban and rural communities gain more affordable access to healthy, locally grown foods, while supporting the small and mid-sized American farmers.

Michel Nischan

Michel Nischan

“Wholesome Wave is ready to explode,” Nischan told “06880” then. “It’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

In just 15 months, Wholesome Wave has certainly made its mark. And the world is noticing.

On Monday in Chicago, the James Beard Foundation honored Nischan as its Humanitarian of the Year.

The foundation called Nischan — also co-founder of the Chef Action Network — “a trailblazer of the sustainable food movement and celebrity chef with over 30 years of experience advocating for a more local, (healthful, equitable) and regenerative food system.”

Citing initiatives like the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program and Healthy Food Commerce Investments — and its efforts with key decision makers in states, Congress and at federal agencies — the foundation said that Nischan’s organization has become “a model for forward-thinking, imaginative solutions that go beyond charity to focus on economic viability.”

Nischan thanked the Beard Foundation for the honor, adding, “I wholeheartedly agree with James when he said, ‘Food is our common ground.’”

In other food news, Opinionated About Dining may not carry the same cachet as the James Beard Foundation. But the self-styled “leading source of global restaurant rankings for devout diners” has just unveiled its 4th annual “Top 100 European Restaurants.”

Alex Burger

Alex Burger

Sitting at #1 — up 18 spots from last year — is that “champion of sustainability and pioneer of modern Basque cuisine, Azurmendi.”

What makes that spectacularly beautiful and very cool restaurant 15 kilometers east of Bilbao “06880”-worthy is that the chef de cuisine is Alex Burger. He’s a 2004 Staples grad  who took every culinary class he could there. He honed his skills at Daniel in New York, then Asia and Malta.

After starting at Planet Pizza, right here in Westport.

“06880” is indeed where Westport meets — and eats — the world.

(Hat tips: Bart Shuldman and Cecily Gans)


3 responses to “Michel Nischan: James Beard’s Humanitarian Of The Year

  1. How incredibly cool is that!

    He’s a great guy and the real deal that deserves as much recognition for his work as possible! – Chris Woods

  2. Wow! Humanitarian award, Environment, Food Politics award, and even an award for Humor (in Nora Ephron style, no doubt)? No longer is the James Beard Award only presented to cookbook authors! Excellent news.

  3. Sharon Paulsen

    I’m duly impressed!

    And I’m reminded of Anthony Bourdain’s particular viewpoint of worldwide cuisine. His travel channel and CNN programs opened my eyes to culture-cuisine like none other.

    Congrats Staples grad!