September 2, 2014
Climbing a mountain clearly works up an appetite.
Which is likely what started a conversation between Highland Park native Emily Abrams and chef Gabriel Viti while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro during a family vacation in 2012. Abrams, a senior at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, is interested in environmental issues and sustainability, while the regarded Viti (Miramar Bistro, Gabriel’s) is interested in food. And that’s when the pair decided to fill a void on bookshelves with the new cookbook “Don’t Cook the Planet” (Triumph Books, $25.95).
Abrams, 19, wanted to share how food and the environment intersect by enlisting the help of A-list celebrities’ favorite recipes that fit her mission. Viti knows a few chefs. So the two went to work sourcing more than 60 recipes from the likes of Robert Redford, Edie Brickell and Paul Simon, and Chevy Chase. But it’s not just the Hollywood set who weighed in; Chicago chefs Stephanie Izard, Jean Joho and Graham Elliot shared their favorites, as well as Denmark’s Prince Philippe de Bourbon-Parme. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel provided one for Challah bread.
Abrams wanted the book to show how our meal choices can impact the environment.
“I wouldn’t call myself a foodie. Rather, I’m invested in the fight against climate change,” she said. “To my surprise, it wasn’t that hard to get recipes. It was harder to make sure that it wasn’t preachy.”
Viti helped test the recipes in his restaurant’s kitchen — and tailored the submissions for readers’ home kitchens. Amid all that food, the chef said he didn’t have a favorite.
“All are fun,” Viti said of the celebrities’ recipes. But what struck him more than the attention to the measures of kale and peppers, was their recipes’ respect for the environment. “These folks are especially involved. This book makes a pretty big statement.”
While the author had her launch party March 17 at Alice Waters’ famed Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, a Chicago book tour is on hold. She’s finishing school, while Viti is now training in Florida to swim the English Channel. So the Chicago book launch won’t happen until this summer.
Proceeds from the book are earmarked to benefit different environmental charities.
As for the teen’s favorite get? Former astronaut and proprietor Jim Lovell of Lake Forest eatery Lovell’s, who provided a recipe for a summer berry torte.