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Food for Thought

The UNICHEF cookbook gives you great recipes while also giving back

What’s better than a cookbook of recipes and personal stories from famed chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, David Chang and Wolfgang Puck? How about if buying that cookbook helped to provide children around the world with health care, clean water, nutrition and more.

Hilary Gumbel has been a consultant and volunteer for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for over 10 years, and she’s just kicked her involvement up a notch by putting together the food-lovers dream of a recipe book, UNICHEF. The pages provide insight into the way famous chefs eat everyday, and each one shares unique stories along with their delicious meal ideas.

DuJour talked to Gumbel about getting each chef on-board (hint: it wasn’t hard to do) and how cooking with your friends and family at home can help children far and wide.

Mario Batali Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Mario Batali Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Tell us a little bit about why UNICEF is so important? 

For more than 65 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading international children’s organization and is currently working in more than 190 countries and territories to give kids the essentials they need for a safe and healthy childhood, from vaccines that prevent diseases to school-in-a-box kits to make education possible. UNICEF has developed simple, affordable and innovative solutions to complex problems to help children.

What inspired you to put together this book?

As a board member, it is important to broaden the awareness of the work that UNICEF does. Whenever I travel to see their work firsthand, I realize that food is the common bond—it brings people together. When we cook together, we create more than just a meal; we generate love, community and a mutual understanding.

Wolfgang Puck Linzer Cookies

Wolfgang Puck Linzer Cookies

Did you have chefs in mind when deciding who would contribute or did people approach you about including their recipes?

I wanted to weave together a culinary experience that would be multiethnic and multicultural for the whole family to enjoy. I decided to make the whole process very informal, everything would be done in the spirit of my volunteer work for UNICEF—therefore, everything in the book would have to be donated based on it being for charity. I knew it would be a challenge but given the purpose, I had faith that it would work— I reached out through emails and phone calls, and once I had the chance to explain what we could achieve by having them participate, every single chef said yes! Each chef in this book donated their photographs, recipes, and their time, knowing that it would mean helping others.

Can you share a personal story about creating the book?

I wanted to surprise my husband [television journalist Bryant Gumbel], who has a great passion for cooking, and actually prepare one of the recipes from UNICHEF without his help. I chose a recipe that the chef learned how to prepare with his grandmother when he was a child. I followed each step and enjoyed the fact that our kitchen filled up with the most delicious aroma of onions and garlic. Suffice it to say, it was very worthwhile to see the smile on my husband’s face when he gave it the thumbs up!

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