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How Charleston's Restaurant Industry Would Change the World Through Food

How would you change the world through food? Local experts weigh in.

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

To mark the relaunch of Eater today, the Features team compiled a collection of seventy-two of the best ideas for how people around the world are or how they plan to or how they want to change the world through food. A lot of the ideas are incredibly earnest. Some are ambitious beyond reason. But what they all have in common is a belief that, with hard work and good food, the world is headed in the right direction.

As a local component to this feature, we asked the Charleston community to chime in. So check out the national responses over here and scroll below to see what local thinkers and doers would like to do to change the world through food. Have a suggestion? Add it to the comments.

Leon's Oyster Shop. [Photo: Remy Thurston]

Brooks Reitz, restaurateur, Leon's Oyster Shop: Yes— education initiatives to teach people about healthy eating, growing and cooking your own vegetables, and living more sustainably through farming/gardening.

John Haire, Jim n' Nicks: Food is forever changing. New, hip trends come and go but people can always be brought together through food. I am constantly reminded through our work with Feed the Need, Tri-county Family Ministries and other outreach organizations that on my worst day, I still have it so good. I work hard and am able to buy good, healthy food for my family. In the BBQ world, we smoke that perfect hog to bring families, friends and complete strangers together in the name of BBQ. People are reminded of the importance of life— joy, family, friendships— when they eat together. If I could make a change through food in our community, it would be to identify neighborhoods that are deficient in choice and selection— "food deserts"— and help find ways to let them have access to locally grown food that can help feed their families— erhaps even something that they had a part in planting, watering or weeding. Those families and friends will be able to provide a healthy meal for all and enjoy time together.  I’m excited to be on the front end of a new project that will help do just that! I've seen it with my own 11 year old son, who has a summer garden . . . when he can harvest okra or peppers that he's helped to grow, it's memorable and meaningful.

Joey Ryan, co-owner, Xiao Bao Biscuit: I want professionals in the area in and out of the hospitality industry to have lunch with graduates of Teach the Need, if they request via a professional email. The networking skills that we learn and use by design at times, and default at times, create opportunities for us, teaching these students to use networking skills, like the simplicity of lunch conversations would be transformative. The world changing experience of lunching with graphic designers, builders, real estate developers, journalists etc. would be amazing.

Mickey Bakst, maitre d', Charleston Grill: I would stop focusing on where it comes from and turn the attention to how do we get it to everyone. There are far too many people in our community, and the world, who still can not afford to eat or have no access to good healthy food, because of where they live and lack of transportation. I have seen students in our high schools fill their pockets with food on Friday because they know there won't be any on Saturday and Sunday. We aren't feeding our children! Finding ways to feed everyone would be a game changer for how can one be productive with an empty belly?

Steve Palmer
, restaurateur, Indigo Road: I would change the world by food through allowing us all to believe that there is enough for everyone, no one should go hungry

Gillian Zettler
, executive director of CHS Wine + Food Festival: We can change the world through food by making sure each and every person - especially children - has access to nourishment. Food is not a resource that we have a shortage of and creating programs to make sure no child goes to bed with an empty stomach is not only in our capability - it should be a necessity.