We had the good fortune of connecting with Olivia Chessé and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olivia, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I am a hard worker and a go-getter. I am grateful that I was taught the values of hard work and money at a young age. I grew up in Provence, in the countryside of France, in a family of food lovers. Growing up I remember endless meals where my family would spend hours talking about an ingredient or a recipe. I started my professional life as a waitress in a restaurant to fund my education. After I graduated from my master’s degree, I started my career in China at a time when the hospitality industry was booming. I was working long hours while learning a ton. I was able to seize opportunities, build my jobs through energy, and perseverance. I have an ability to overcome obstacles that I see as opportunities to learn. I have reinvented myself many times by starting from scratch in China, Indonesia and most recently in New York where I started my own experiential food event agency. Struck by the Covid19 pandemic, I decided to create Chefs for Impact, a non-profit organization that strives to inspire a more sustainable food system through community programming and education. The health crisis gave me the strength and motivation to create something that would make an impact. I’ve probably never felt so grounded and connected to my values. I know that I am where I am supposed to be today. We all have a role to play, I feel fulfilled, and this is my definition of success.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Starting a new company during a pandemic was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life, that’s for sure! But I believe that obstacles are opportunities to learn. There is no success without risk. The lessons I’ve learned along the way are many, and some of them are still outstanding. I’m learning how to lay a solid foundation for lasting impact, how to build a financially sustainable model for a nonprofit, how to create a board of directors and engage its members, how to run a business with 50% of the staff being volunteers, how to build a community garden, and much more!
Chefs for Impact is a NY based nonprofit organization aiming to empower people and connect communities to make sustainable food decisions through our media, programs, and advocacy, with a lot of our work centering around youth. We believe access to food education, and healthy food is a human right, and it should not be a privilege. I am passionate and extremely motivated to have an impact in these directions. With Chefs for Impact I want to inspire the next generation. As a mother of 2 and stepmother of 2, I believe that educating and empowering youth is the future. Knowledge is power and we are planting seeds for the future.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First, discover the city by foot. Get lost and feel the incredible energy of NYC street after street. Some of my favorite neighborhoods are West Village where I live, China town and Harlem where I work, and Williamsburg and Bushwick where I hang with my friends. Enjoy long walks along the Hudson river and smell the ocean breathe, reconnect to nature in Central Park, go to Governors Island with your kids, and eat oysters by the water at Grand Banks or Island Oyster.
- Start your day with a latte and a pan de queso at Ocafe
- Do not miss Chambers for a unique natural wine experience orchestrated by MOF Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier
- Loring Place for delicious local seasonal meals
- Rosella for an exceptional sustainable seafood sushi experience
- Hao Noddle and tea for delicious chinese dishes, many with seasonal ingredients & house made noodles.
- ABC V for casual vegan lunches
- Have an upscale sustainable secret dining experience at Frevo and say hi to Chef Franco Sampogna
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Like everyone else my life has been marked by a series of encounters, and inspirations. Of all of them, my husband, whom I met in China, has certainly been my greatest. It has taught me self-confidence, the power of mindful positivity, and he inspires me to go further every day.
With Chefs for Impact, I have built an ecosystem and nurtured a community of supporters who believe in our mission and support our work: board members, colleagues, volunteers, industry advisors, chefs, farmers, sommeliers, wine makers, producers, entrepreneurs, nonprofit founders. All of these people are my motivation.
To create a lasting legacy, listen to people, learn from others, especially the ones who have done it before. And always stay humble, there are tons of people way smarter than you are. I have learnt so much from some very special human beings whom I have been lucky enough to cross their paths. My friends Yann Arthus Bertrand (Fondation GoodPlanet), Nicolas Rossignol (Tout le monde contre le cancer), Tony Hillery (Harlem Grown), Ariane Daguin (D’artagnan), Deborah Koenigsberger (Hearts of Gold), have been huge inspiration and I am very grateful for the way they have shaped me as a social entrepreneur.
Photo courtesy of Chefs for Impact