World-travelled chef wins honors for sustainability efforts at Knox College

From The Register-Mail
Helmut Mayer is rather modest when he explains why he began buying locally produced food to incorporate into menus he develops for Knox College.

“Many things here are student driven,” said Mayer, the college’s director of dining services. “I’m a no-bars-hold kind of guy and the students here are too — not beating around the bush.” So when Mayer, 61, heard students demanding not just organic food, but locally produced food, he stepped up the challenge.

“There’s a very high demand here for locally grown. Organic used to be the thing, but kids know organic can be mass produced — industrialized,” he said. “Locally grown is the big thing now.”

This year marks the third year Mayer will be purchasing produce through the area’s Local Grower’s Network… For his efforts to incorporate Galesburg area-produced food into the meals served to Knox students, faculty, and staff, Mayer recently was honored by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. The Alliance created the awards to recognize what it calls “the creative, innovative and pioneering local food activities in Illinois.”

He was one of 18 recipients of the 2011 Golden Beet Award. He was selected in the category of “Farm to School.”

Mayer’s nomination for the Golden Beet stated: “For several years, Helmut has made a special effort to purchase locally produced food for dining services at Knox College. He beats the drum for local food and educates staff and students about it. He was also interviewed for the ‘Wa$sted’ show on the Planet Green Network.”

Mayer said he was “totally surprised” by the award, but honored.