I’m Samuel Monsour, a chef, author and food activist. I’m a hard-core east coaster—most recently residing in Boston—but my wife Astrid and I just moved to Los Angeles, and we are stoked! (Hanging out at Will Rogers State Beach on a sunny November afternoon is not a bad gig).
I’ve always cooked with soul, and lately, I’m focused heavily on cooking with a purpose as well. In addition to crafting these values onto plates, I’ve been using the keyboard as my bullhorn in hopes of raising a voice loud enough for the tenets of my food activism to be heard and received.
My current activism based project is called The Future of Junk Food, which I founded alongside my partner chef Mark O’Leary (Shojo, Boston) in 2012. Together, Mark and I have been recreating iconic American junk food with thoughtfully sourced, local, sustainable, and seasonal ingredients. Our mission is simple: Progress for the processed food industry. Our method is straightforward: If we can create junk food without using junk, while still satisfying the emotional craving that we as American’s associate with said cuisine, why can’t a billion dollar industry?
That’s right, I just referred to junk food as a cuisine. Mark and I believe it to be the unsung hero of the American bounty. And for good reason: It’s often times not homemade, and consequently, it notoriously lacks nutritional content, and of course, soul. We are making junk food that folks can feel good about eating while supporting sustainable farming practices.
We’re improving junk food because we’re junk food junkies, and we know y’all are too. Why can’t junk food be better for us? Wouldn’t the entire country be a whole lot better off if that we’re the case? (We think so).
So. That’s what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. How we’re doing it where all of the fun and excitement enters. We showcase our creations at one-night dinner party style pop-ups, the details of which shift with the seasons, locations, guests, and food memories we hope to evoke.
We started in Boston, and now are spreading our mission nationwide in hopes of reaching a wider audience, in hopes that one day we can amplify our message to the masses so that real change can occur. Just recently, we held our first out-of-Boston pop-up in Santa Monica, at a happening spot called Huckleberry Café, or Huck as the locals say.
The owners, operators, management, and staff of Huck, as well as every other restaurant owned by Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan (Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery) live and breath the very definition of hospitality, and we cannot thank them enough for their space, resources, and local expertise. The dinner would not have been a success without them.
We knew that as a couple of out-of-towners, if we were to succeed at blasting our message of progress out into the Los Angeles atmosphere, we’d need to invite a diverse array of local industry cats to join us. We were honored to be joined by an all-star line-up of chefs, beverage directors and restaurateur’s such as Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon), Marcel Vigneron (Beefsteak by Marcel), Thi & Nguyen Tran (Starry Kitchen), Matthew Kang (Scoops Westside), Erwin & Eric Tjahyadi (Komodo) and Devon Espinosa (The Church Key).
The night was pure magic as we cooked for a better tomorrow, and we were all SO very proud to know that we were making a huge difference for someone’s very near future as well. How? Well, we decided to work tightly with our budget and figure out how to donate a feel-good amount of ticket sale loot to the L.A. Kitchen’s culinary arts & nutrition advocacy training program. In fact, because we were able to sell out our event, we are donating $1,166, exactly enough scratch to pay one student’s way through the entire program—a 15-week course that helps youth aging out of foster care, as well as older adults coming home from prison, by giving them some very real and practical life skills within the culinary profession.
We’re wicked proud to say that we’ve already ensured that one student has access to this amazing program next year. Help L.A. Kitchen reach their goal of raising $30,316 to train and graduate an entire class of 26 trainees in 2015. Start your own MY [L.A.] KITCHEN fundraising campaign today! It’s the holiday season for goodness sake. Get out there and spread some fizzy cheer. Help some folks transform their lives and ensure that neither food nor people ever go to waste.
Read More »