Executive Chef James Siao from Santa Barbara’s Finch & Fork restaurant has hit the road and clocked in 900 miles to raise awareness and funds for No Kid Hungry’s annual Chef’s Cycle. Here, he answers a few of our questions about the experience and his personal passion for the cause.
Q: How did you first hear about No Kid Hungry (NKH) and Chef’s Cycle?
The first time I heard about Chef’s Cycle was actually on a bike tour. We had a package at the Kimpton Canary Hotel where I would guide guests through downtown Santa Barbara to all my favorite spots. A Chef’s Cycle rider who ran a wine bar in the Funk Zone saw our group and asked if I enjoyed cycling. He told us there was a great event happening soon where chefs would cycle 300 miles to raise money for No Kid Hungry. I immediately said I was interested but didn’t know much about long distance riding at the time. I was in the right place at the right time.
Q: As a chef, why does this ride and NKH’s mission matter to you?
What NKH is doing across the country is an inspiration. As a chef, I know how consistently qualitative food can directly fuel learning and overall growth. This ride gives me a chance to be a part of an effort to raise awareness for an issue that impacts millions of kids and I feel like I’m making a real difference. It’s an amazing feeling to support a cause where children everywhere have access to healthy food every day.
Q: What motivates you to go back year after year? 300 miles is pretty grueling!
This ride is an unbelievable experience that challenges me mentally and physically. I never imagined I could do something like this three years ago, but after 900 miles and three cycles later it now drives a huge part of my lifestyle. I’m more healthy and active, but most importantly, benefiting from having met like-minded individuals who strive to change and challenge themselves! I’m inspired by the unbelievable staff and the riders who support each other through every mile and hill. It’s the collective group effort that that helps us recruit more support in the fight against childhood hunger.
The first year, I trained with one other person on commuter bikes and now, we have the Kimpton nation supporting the cause with 10 riders including our CEO, join the ride. I never could have anticipated this turning into a national Kimpton partnership, resulting in over $100k in donations. With this momentum, who knows how much we are capable of in our 4th year? It goes to show how any individual can make a difference but a team can make a major impact.
Q: Any post-ride stories that keep you inspired? (met any kids impacted by NKH?)
Every year we meet children that benefit from No Kid Hungry’s efforts through school programs or summer camps during our rides or throughout the year. We also hear touching stories from speakers from these schools about how the program has changed their children’s physical and mental well-being. It’s amazing that regular school breakfasts or summer programs could make such an impact in keeping them happy, active and healthy.
Being able to help children inspires me. I’ve never felt that I could make such a difference until joining Chef’s Cycle and never fully understood the hunger crisis here in the U.S.
Q: Were you a big cyclist before? Do you have quick training tips for those who want to get into long distance cycling?
I was never a big cyclist before Chef’s Cycle. As a child, I rode bikes, but haven’t ridden in at least 15 years until joining Chef’s Cycle. Road cycling was all new to me, especially long distance. I learned a lot of this the hard way, but local riders (and the internet) were my coaches on cadence, proper clothing, and technique. The biggest tip is to have fun, be careful, and find a friend to join you on the journey. You’ll always be learning, but start by asking the local bike shop for advice and then you’ll go from there.
Q: What are you most looking forward to with this year’s ride?
I always looking forward to meeting other chefs, finding fun ways to raise awareness, and seeing a beautiful part of the country you’d never really get to enjoy if you weren’t on a bike.
Q: Last but not least, what was your favorite meal as a kid?
I really enjoyed the classics: sloppy joes, lots of pasta, and anything on rice.
To support the ride, visit Kimpton’s Chef’s Cycle page.