Chef Loghan Call jokes at the start of the dinners he hosts that those in attendance aren’t allowed to eat anything until he’s explained the dish.
The dinners are one of the signature programs of Call’s company, Planted Cuisine, and Call wants consumers to be aware of the story and nuances behind each dish instead of just digging in – the farmer who grew the ingredients, the particular broth used to cook a component, the various spices added for health benefits. Unpacking the different layers of the dish can heighten people’s culinary experiences, he said.
Call, an alumnus of UCLA Extension, is the chef and founder of Planted Cuisine, a food company based in Michigan that emphasizes mindfulness and regenerative food practices, he said. While Planted Cuisine lacks a brick-and-mortar location, Call said it puts on a variety of classes, pop-ups and dining experiences.
“Food touches everything – it is so interconnected in our daily lives and (that) speaks to its impact, but it also speaks to how hard it is to make seismic changes within the system itself,” Call said. “I just started building this narrative with my food around soil health, nutrient density, regenerative practices, food as medicine.”
Call studied sustainability and agriculture at UCLA Extension and, while working on a class project, he met Erik Cutter of Alegría Fresh, an Orange County farm focused on soil health and sustainable agriculture. Cutter said he works with many people, particularly chefs like Call, to emphasize the importance of soil health and regenerative food practices. The two connected over the idea of changing the way food is cultivated so that the net impact on the community and land is positive, rather than harmful, Cutter said.
“We realized back then that we were both interested in food and we were concerned about fresh food and how food is grown,” Cutter said. “Chefs need to start looking at what kinds of food can they serve, make them taste delicious, make it look beautiful … and lastly, (ask) ‘Does it really heal people?'”
Call began working alongside Cutter, taking home boxes of produce to cook with. After posting photos of the food he cooked on Instagram, he hosted a seven-course pop-up dinner for seven of his friends and Instagram connections in his apartment, which became the first Planted Cuisine event.
Since then, Call said the company’s events are intended to tie food and community together, a connection he believes has been diminished due to convenience and technology. With the popularization of microwaveable food and takeout, paired with watching television or streaming while eating, food and interaction have become secondary to convenience and entertainment, he said.
“As much as possible with events, we’re doing family-style seating and also just using our platform, our business as a way to convene people,” Call said. “Just using food as a means of bringing people together and getting people to talk face to face and helping to break down those barriers that exist.”
Planted Cuisine’s primary events are its dinner experiences, which are similar to pop-up dinners or tastings, but with an educational element. As Call serves dinner, he explains both the food being presented and also the practice of regenerative food systems and practices. One example is conscious soil maintenance to make sure it is rich in nutrients, Cutter said.
However, because some soil lacks the necessary nutrients, Planted Cuisine also works to infuse medicinal herbs and minerals into its food for additional health benefits, said Call’s mother Naomi Call. Naomi Call is a nutritionist and herbalist, and often collaborates with Loghan Call on various aspects of the business.
“I believe very strongly that food is medicine and raised (Loghan Call) with that belief to really have very high regard for what we eat, that once it crosses the threshold of our lips, it’s a part of who we are,” Naomi Call said. “So (we’ve) come to really embrace and understand the powerful impact that food has on us, not just on our physical bodies but also mentally and spiritually.”
Because food touches so many different aspects of everyday life – from politics and healthcare to nutrition and agriculture – changing practices and perceptions is a necessary step toward healthier individuals and a healthier society, Loghan Call said.
“Most Americans don’t even have the bandwidth or time, the luxury or the privilege, to understand the impacts of food in their lives,” Call said. “You have to start pushing the door open into all these different industries and all these different areas.”