Food stars Tom Colicchio and Rachel Ray discuss eradicating hunger in America

The 7th annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, presented by “FOOD & WINE,” had another celebration of all things dining in…

Rachael Ray (L) and Tom Colicchio attend TimesTalk: Tom Colicchio & Rachael Ray during the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By FOOD & WINE at The Times Center on October 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

The 7th annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, presented by “FOOD & WINE,” had another celebration of all things dining in New York City this October for consecutive four days.

And it was in collaboration with the festival that food celebrities like Yotam Ottolenghi, Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Eric Ripert, Tom Colicchio and Rachael Ray, as well as New York Times Restaurant Critics joined TimesTalks on Saturday Oct. 18 at TheTimesCenter for a series of pleasant and stimulating conversations in a very relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

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This time, Tom Colicchio and Rachael Ray, both true passionate advocates for eradicating hunger in America, joined New York Times Food writer Jeff Gordinier to discuss how we can, and must, solve this problem now.

Gordinier started the conversation looking at where do we see hunger in America and asking what’s the face of hunger in America.

“The face of hunger in America has changed dramatically over the last several years, now it is accessible, it used to be a stigma, but now we all know someone in need—things have changed so much that even well-educated people, dedicated hard-working people, are affected by hunger…that’s the very dark silver lining of hunger. Sadly, now we know what that face is now,” shared Ray at the beginning of the conversation.

“We cannot see it because it isn’t what we are conditioned to know hunger. One in six Americans are hungry,” added Colicchio, “We are in the greatest country ever and we “have to talk about hunger!”

Tom Colicchio and Rachel Ray discuss eradicating hunger

Gordinier: You both have been engaged and committed with this issue for years, what drew you into it?

Ray: My mom has worked in restaurants for a long time and we used to work the holidays in community kitchens or putting together big parties for families in need in our community. We were brought up as not only value food but to serve others, to give back, through food.

Colicchio: I’ve been a chef in NY for the past 25 years and I have always been pretty active with this issue and I thought it was fun; I was doing my part. But one day my wife, five years ago, mentioned a young girl.

She was about 13 years old. She realized this girl had some learning difficulties and in NY (public school) when a child presents those disabilities they have to be moved to a private a school so we had to sue the city to get her in a private school so they can deal with some of her issues.

About a week into the school year I get a call from the principal saying that this young woman was scrounging around the garbage for food. So we realized that when she was in public school she was eating from the lunch program, so between breakfast and lunch that was all she was eating all day. So my wife, she’s a narrative filmmaker, came home and said she wanted to make a film about hunger in this country, and that film, came out last year, was called “A Place at the Table.” And that is how I got involved in a different way, more directly involved than before.

Gordinier: Let’s talk about cooking, something that is central to what you both do. So how do encourage people to get more into cooking?

Ray: I love working with kids and get them excited about cooking and I think that any movement with kids and food has to start with making them excited about what they eat always with a great sense of humor and lightness without scolding them, just the way I grew up. I also learned so much around them because they are freer and so creative. They have no rules!

Gordinier: How is cooking awareness connects with one stream of solution to solve hunger?

Ray: It gives you a great sense of self-awareness, peace of mind, it is very empowering to know what and how to cook for yourself. At least for me, it made me (makes me) feel safe. At the end of the day, when I get home, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction, peace of mind, feel safe doing that for myself, my husband, my mom. And out of all that I feel so grateful and full before even taking a bite. It is a very spiritual thing at the end of my day and I hate going out to dinner.

Colicchio: I also think that if you lose your cooking, you lose your culture. Immigrants have come to America 300-400 years ago and cooking is a way to connect with your roots. The other thing is that food means family, having your family (and friends) at the table, getting together, which is so important.

Typically today is only around the holidays that it happens. Growing up I had to be home for dinner and that lasted until we left the house. Funny, my brother and I still talk about getting our families together at least once a month. And it goes beyond your family and friends. Food and cooking expands out to your community. Everything evolves around food; our memories are connected to food.

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