Known as the “Stiletto Chef,” Top Chef star and television personality Candice Kumai is all about keeping it fresh and giving back.
By Shannon O’Reilly
A former contestant on Bravo’s premiere season of “Top Chef,” host of TLC’s “Home Made Simple,” chef contributor for Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats,” and host of Lifetime’s “Cook Yourself Thin,” chef and television personality Candice Kumai is taking over the culinary world with fresh produce and healthy eats.
One of Candice’s newest undertakings is serving as the National Ambassador for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi’s “Giving Through Growing” (GTG) program-a partnership with the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA). Candice raises awareness of the GTG program, which provides funds and the educational resources to stimulate the creative thinking that will, in the future, get more people eating farm-to-table fresh dishes. Through her healthy cooking and gardening experience, she advocates the importance of fresh food for a healthy lifestyle while showing just how simple it is to get out and garden.
With GTG, Candice is currently traveling the country, visiting the hometown cities of the Woodbridge “heroes.” For the 2011 year, GTG hosted a nationwide contest to award four “heroes,” that embodied the thinking GTG is all about. Between April 15 and May 22, those with a passion for gardening submitted their ideas for a community gardening program. In the end, GTG and ACGA chose four heroes, originating from our own Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami, and New York. The “heroes” were granted monetary support totaling $40,000, to make their garden visions a reality.
Candice will visit the heroes to contribute her own green thumb and monitor the progress of each project. She made her first stop in Washington D.C., to visit the hometown of Alison Kindler, the lead member of the volunteer executive committee at Fort Barnard Community Garden, located in Arlington, Virginia. Through the garden’s Plant-a-Row program, fresh produce is grown and harvested for the Arlington Assistance Center, a food pantry that provides supplemental groceries to Arlingtonians that are less fortunate. With Alison’s creative thinking and the monetary support from GTG, her plan is to build raise beds and plant vegetables using a “square foot” gardening method, purchase tomato cages and bean towers, and install a drip watering system. Simply put, the goal is to promote vertical growth and maximize growth in raised beds. When it comes to gardening, it takes a lot of time and energy and Alison hopes to make it easier for volunteers, so more plants can be harvested and more produce donated to those in need.
The hard work and the unconditional giving of local hero Alison Kindler was recognized and celebrated at Zola Wine & Kitchen, with a cooking demonstration using fresh ingredients from the Fort Barnard Community Garden. Gourmet appetizers and wine were also in a constant flow, demonstrating what can be done with fresh ingredients while showcasing Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi wine. Candice engaged with press and the people behind the community project at the event, sharing her experiences earlier that day at the Fort Barnard Community Garden and giving her two cents about healthy, flavorful meals from fresh produce.
Before dining on freshly made crepes by Zola Wine & Kitchen chefs, Candice sat down with Washington Life Magazine and talked about her involvement with “Giving through Growing.” Candice explained Giving Through Growing felt like the most natural extension of her work as a whole.
“I promote eating healthy and real food,” said Candice. With Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi she is doing just that. When first hearing about the program’s initiative to support community garden programs, Candice thought, “My gosh, I always had a garden-in kindergarten I had a sunflower bed.”
Growing up, Candice was always down in the dirt, helping her mother grow fresh herbs and vegetables right in her backyard. Now, she wants to continue that tradition while also taking it a step further. As National Ambassador for GTG, she simplifies her mission in three words, “cultivate, share, and donate.” When it comes to donating fresh produce, “Those in need don’t just have to eat processed junk out of a can,” said Candice.
During the event, Candice talked about her mission in front of the intimate gathering at Zola and toasted Allison Kindler for her hard work, stating, “It’s heart warming that there are great people like Allison.” Candice’s passion for cooking and the GTG program showed as she happily mingled with guests throughout the night, talking about gardening and sharing her favorite recipes.
A former model, food writer, and television personality, Candice Kumai’s list of accomplishments is long but not yet complete. Candice will continue on the Mondavi “heroes” tour, promoting farm-to-table meals and helping with local community projects.
“It’s about getting families and caretakers back to the kitchen.”
To learn more about the GTG program visit www.woodbridgewines.com/garden. If you started a garden, harvested your vegetables, and are now standing there asking “now what?” don’t worry. Candice shares tips and farm fresh recipes for the GTG web site at www.garden.robertmondavi.com.
When it comes to Candice Kumai, there is always something cooking. This time its her new cookbook, “Pretty Delicious,” where she shares tantalizing recipes, gives tips for staying thin, and shows how to cook without breaking the bank. Don’t forget to check out her popular blog www.StilettoChef.com, where she keeps things fun, fresh, and tasty.