2 Arkansas chefs go to Russia, represent U.S. at exhibition

Posted: November 7, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Two Northwest Arkansas-based chefs are representing the United States at a Russian food exhibition today, where top chefs from around the world will share and sharpen their gastronomic chops and bring their new knowledge back to their home countries.

Chefs Rob Nelson and Michael Kuefner, both affiliated with Northwest Arkansas' Brightwater culinary institute, have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Trade Offices in Russia to share their American techniques and zero food-waste practices. Both chefs have worked with Zero Waste zero-waste programs at the New York City-based James Beard Foundation and implemented similar techniques in their kitchens.

They've also never been to Russia.

They'll be showcasing their work at Megustro, the largest event for the restaurant industry in St. Petersburg. It spans three days with more than 5,000 participants and 100 speakers. Chefs in attendance will be from across the globe, including Michelin-rated stars such as Tristan Brandt of the United Kingdom and Daniel Dal Bin of Germany, according to the event's website.

Glenn Mack, executive director of Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food at the Northwest Arkansas Community College, said he is hopeful that this event will further establish the region's identity as a culinary hub.

When asked how two Arkansas chefs were chosen, Mack said "like a lot of things in life, it's not a coincidence."

In February 2016, Mack said he visited an English language culinary program in Russia with the intention of developing an exchange program with Brightwater. There, he met with representatives from the country's trade offices in Moscow, which led to David Leishman, director of the USDA's trade offices in Russia, choosing two chefs in the Bentonville food scene for today's events.

"They'll both teach and do some private dinners at local restaurants and present formally at the expo," Mack said.

Nelson, owner of Bentonville's Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie, is to speak Wednesday about Southern cuisine and environmentally sustainable practices at his restaurant.

Kuefner, lead culinary instructor at Brightwater, will share how he implemented the zero -waste concept into Brightwater's butchery program.

"We are living through a critical moment in U.S.-Russia relations. While there are many areas of profound disagreement that are compounded by trade sanctions, the MEGUSTRO event offers a great opportunity for positive and mutually beneficial engagement," Leishman said in a statement. "As we invite Brightwater to Russia, we are hoping to build bridges for the future."

Even as most people across the Atlantic don't know where Arkansas is.

"As a unique twist, they said well, can you put together a promotional video?" Mack said.

Brightwater collaborated with Visit Bentonville and Bentonville High School's Ignite Program to piece together a montage of the region and its culinary advancements.

"We want to bring experts from all over the world [to Arkansas] as well as some students to study," Mack said.

Business on 11/07/2017