CHEF | GARBAGE PICKER
Tim Ma embraces his garbage. The famed Washington, DC-area chef and restaurateur is notorious for turning food trash into dinner treasure—which he does both for environmental sustainability and his bottom-line. “I don’t know how I became DC’s food waste champion,” he laughs. “But I love talking about it.”
The sustainability icon’s hands are full these days. He regularly creates thought-provoking food with a progressive point of view around town—at Eaton DC, Prather’s on the Alley, and beyond. He and his uncle, Paul Ma, were recently featured in the National Museum of American History’s revamped exhibit, Food: Transforming the American Table. And, when COVID-19 hit, Ma tied his apron tighter and joined José Andrés’s DC Central Kitchen, NGO Real Food for Kids, and other chefs to make over 1,200 plant-rich meals weekly for those hit hardest by the pandemic.
To Ma, the pandemic has had one positive benefit: it has given him the opportunity to reflect on his purpose. “I got to slow down and analyze what I have accomplished in the past, what I want to accomplish in the future, and what impact I can make in the next ten years.”
Who inspires Tim?
Tim’s inspirations clearly share a greater purpose and passion for serving more than food. Sarah Thomas, former Sommelier at New York’s celebrated Le Bernardin restaurant and Author of Kalamata’s Kitchen children’s book series, “is incredibly inspiring, changing the way that our children eat.” Friends of the National Zoo Executive Director Lynn Mento is “a real-life, down-to-earth conservationist who wants to help everybody.” Bonnie Moore, former Executive Sous Chef at the legendary Inn at Little Washington and Director of Real Food for Kids, is “a big supporter of community-driven initiatives that try to change the school food system.” And celebrity chef José Andrés, who went from restaurateur to philanthropist, “uses his notoriety for good on a very large scale.”
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