by Brittany Wright, media and outreach specialist
Chef Randy Zweiban has more than 20 years of experience that spans a career in Miami and Los Angeles. He also served as chef to Chicago’s Nacional 27 for nearly 10 years before opening Province three years ago. Zweiban’s signature cuisine incorporates the bold flavors of Central and South America as well as Spain.
“I really love incorporating that with farm to table cuisine, I love sourcing local food and local ingredients that are seasonally grown here in the Midwest and bringing that to our guests,” he said.
The restaurateur has been involved with Cooking up Change for several years. This year, Zweiban serves as a chef mentor to the culinary team from Clemente High School.
“It’s so exciting to work with a great group of individuals and it’s wonderful to work with teachers that really care about the future of our children in America,” he said. “They are teaching healthy food choices in a way that is inspiring young people.”
Providing guidance to aspiring chefs is important for Zweiban. As a professional chef, he said it is his responsibility to provide a path to success for youth interested in the culinary arts. He notes, “I think it’s our jobs and our abilities that are going to help this country and younger generations grow.”
Chef Randy expressed how proud he is to work with the Clemente High team. “I’m quite honored to work with these individuals,” he said. “They’re really great kids, they have great souls, they're passionate, they care, they’re doing this in their own free time and I’ve very honored to be a part of what they’re doing.”
Zweiban said he was humbled by the mentoring experience. He notes that “it’s exciting to be able to have that kind of effect on people. At the end of the day, if I could just hopefully be a reasonable inspiration to them to help them in this endeavor that they’re excited about, that’s a thrill beyond belief.”
The chef praised their hard work, especially given the Cooking up Change contest parameters. The healthy cooking contest challenges student chefs to create healthy school meals using the same budgetary and nutritional guidelines as school food service departments across the country -- a true testament to these students’ talents and creativity.
“It’s fantastic that they get to work, rework and rework again to get there and come up with a product that’s really good,” said Chef Randy. “It’s something they want to eat. If they want to eat it then other people are going to want to eat it.”
Cooking up Change is not only a platform to showcase student talent, but also gives students a unique voice. Zweiban points out, “empowering them with the ability to do this is fantastic because instead of being dictated to, ‘you make this,’ ‘you do this,’ or ‘you cook this recipe,’ they are the creative process.” He adds, “For them to have ownership in it, they’re going to believe in it and prosper with it and teach others about it.”
Zweiban concluded, “I think it’s fantastic that there is this swelling, growing movement that people have really become aware of and care about.”
Thanks to Chef Randy and the Clemente team for giving us a sneak peek! Best of luck in the Cooking up Change competition!
Are you Cooking up Change? Get your ticket for the Cooking up Change flagship contest and benefit on November 3.
Be sure to check back for stories from Cooking up Change alums, chef mentors, sponsors and students!
Plus! Purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win a wine country getaway, culinary experience, or game system to support Cooking up Change! You can buy tickets online here, or at Cooking up Change next week!