the Travel + Leisure World Vision Award aim to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations and organizations that strive to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices and experiences. Not only do they demonstrate thought leadership and creative problem solving; they take concrete and quantifiable action to protect communities and environments around the world. Plus, they inspire industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.
Sometimes it feels like food is everything: love, life, fuel, medicine, culture, comfort, community. Much has been written about how this can bring us together. But take a closer look at how food gets to our tables, and it’s clear that the systems built around it have just as much divisive power – whether it’s marginalizing and separating neighborhoods and cities, or creating a growing disconnect between humans and plants. and the animals that feed us. These Global Vision Awards winners want to close these gaps: between people and land, restaurant and kitchen, and a food system that creates abundance and works the same for everyone. — T+L Editors
In 2013, chef Rodrigo Pacheco and entrepreneur Dayra Reyes took over an abandoned green pepper farm on the Ecuadorian coast and began restoring the degraded land. They called it Bocavaldivia: an 80-acre experience that now includes a renowned restaurant that taps into the surrounding “edible forest,” as Pacheco calls it; Tanusas, a small luxury hotel, which just reopened in December after major renovations; a new group of residential villas; and a research institution that integrates science and sustainable community development. At its heart is Pacheco’s vision: “To be fully connected to the ecosystem around us. To create harmony.”
An eight-hour drive southwest of the capital, Quito, the reserve covers four distinct ecosystem types: marine, transitional littoral, tropical dry forest and cloud forest. Pacheco celebrates their biodiversity on its menus. Almost everything he serves is fished, farmed or fished there, from pineapple and pumpkin to snapper and sea urchin. Seafood or produce can be slow-smoked using different woods, a technique he learned from the indigenous peoples of the region. “A lot of these products I used in France,” says Pacheco, a graduate of the Paul Bocuse Institute in Lyon. “When I started to investigate my own land, I realized: we are the origins. There is so much wisdom here. Yet we haven’t been recognized for it – and we haven’t recognized.” The team has just opened a second restaurant, Foresta, in Quito. —Jeff Chu
The most interesting chefs working today don’t just dream up Michelin-star-worthy menus or tinker with ingredients in their kitchens. They are also foodways students and passionate activists who defend the environment and local farmers. Some have even opened laboratories that invest in scientific and agricultural research. Think: Alex Atala in Brazil, Dan Barber in New York and Rene Redzepi in Denmark. In Chile, the pioneer is Rodolfo Guzmán, the chef and founder of Boragó in Santiago. Trained in Mugaritz in Spain, Guzmán then studied nutrition in order to better understand the link between food and health. In 2006 he opened Boragó. Over time, he has developed ties with 200 foraging communities across the country to provide ingredients such as arrayán, a wild fruit available one month a year, and more than 30 types of mushrooms that only grow in Chile. Each of his dishes is typically born from a new product encountered during his many trips across the country. Brown sugar loaf ribs with nettle “mousse”, for example, look like textured charcoal, while Frio Glacial – a dessert of menthol granita, mint ice cream and lemon mousse – looks like a tiny glacier topped with fragile purple flowers of the Atacama Desert. In 2019, he moved his restaurant to a new contemporary glass building at the foot of Cerro Manquehue, Santiago’s highest peak, complete with a garden and a culinary research center dedicated to educating and promoting Chilean ingredients. — Gisele Williams
The FoodLab Detroit team, led by activist Devita Davison, sees how we eat as deeply political. You can’t understand food without considering, for example, immigration policy, poverty and gentrification, housing, or the effects of climate change. Food is a lens through which to view the dynamics at play in society – as well as a vehicle for strengthening a community. Since 2014, FoodLab Detroit has helped incubate more than 200 local culinary businesses, including catering businesses, bakeries and restaurants, half of which are owned by BIPOC women. In 2019, he established the Food and Work Change Fellowship to provide special support, mentorship and solidarity to a smaller cohort of food change makers in and around the city. . So far, 15 women have received scholarships, including Ji Hye Kim, the chef-restaurateur behind Ann Arbor’s famed Miss Kim, and Excellent chef veteran Kiki Louya, co-founder of Detroit Folk and Farmer’s Hand restaurants. — JC
One of the most important ingredients of Kentucky bourbon is not the aging of the whiskey inside the cask, but rather the material of the cask itself: American white oak. That’s why eighth-generation distiller and Maker’s Mark scion Rob Samuels is determined to preserve North American native trees at the brand’s Star Hill Farm in Loretto, KY. Over 300 varieties of white oak are planted in what will one day be the largest repository of the species in the world. Scientists from the University of Kentucky are working with Maker’s Mark to study the new plantings, as well as MM1, Star Hill Farm’s oldest tree, which is estimated to be between 300 and 500 years old. Their research aims to identify current and future threats to oak trees, which add billions of dollars to rural economies each year.
Maker’s Mark also installed a solar panel, implemented the region’s first widespread recycling program, and converted to a regenerative farming system that will eventually make the distillery energy independent. Samuels hopes the new initiatives will help create a greener standard for whiskey producers in Kentucky and the United States. “We realize that proven best agricultural practices – as amazing as they are for the environment – must always pay off for farmers,” he said. “By modeling these practices on Star Hill Farm and sharing our findings, we believe our growers will also want to adopt them.” —Heidi Mitchell
When restaurateurs Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, both veterans of San Francisco’s famed Mission Chinese and Perennial, started the nonprofit Zero Foodprint in 2015, its goal was to help restaurants analyze and reduce their carbon emissions. But they quickly learned that the vast majority of shows didn’t happen in the kitchen. “It started to seem almost pointless to analyze restaurants,” says Myint. “About 70% of the carbon footprint was from fertilizer, tillage, all those things – an empirical reason to move on to how ingredients are produced. But if California is on fire and has a mega-drought, that is not solved by a few people buying at the farmers market.”
So Zero Foodprint pivoted. His core business now is what Myint calls “a table-to-farm effort” toward structural change in agriculture. Myint and Leibowiz recruit restaurants to add an (optional) 1% surcharge to customer bills, and these funds are pooled and channeled to subsidize regenerative practices. Farmers and herders bid for subsidies; once proposed improvements have been assessed for their climate benefits, local conservation experts are hired to help implement the projects. “Our goal is really to create a scalable funding mechanism to change acres,” says Myint. “We’re changing the way food is grown to restore the climate. It’s a win-win situation for any community: water conservation, carbon sequestration, better food.”
Zero Foodprint, which won Humanitarian of the Year at the 2020 James Beard Awards, remains relatively small: fewer than 100 locations worldwide are currently registered. But Myint is heartened that almost no customers are opting out of the fee — “most people don’t even notice” — and participants not only include high-end restaurants like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Barley Swine in Austin, Texas, as well as five Subway locations in Boulder, Colorado. Up next: Zero Foodprint’s annual Earth Week campaign, which will see even more restaurants around the world donate a portion of the week’s profits to regenerative agriculture projects. Their model shows that change is possible if we invest together. — JC