Tallgrass Chef Looks to Make Oklahoma History
Executive Chef Michelle Donaldson of Tallgrass Prairie Table in Tulsa’s Blue Dome district is seeking nomination for the 2016 James Beard Award’s “Best Chef in the Southwest.” Since the inception of this esteemed award in 1990, no Oklahoma chef has been nominated. The James Beard foundation recognizes and awards for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing and culinary education. “The mission of the James Beard Foundation is to celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s culinary heritage and future.” One of the many criteria for recognition is “known use of high quality, seasonal, and/or local ingredients.” This phrase fits Chef Donaldson to a T. She spends tireless hours researching and procuring local and sustainable products from meat, poultry, fish, to dairy, produce and grains for her restaurant. Her commitment to local food and its farms and producers is apparent in every dish served at Tallgrass Prairie Table. She says, “our goal is to support sustainability and small farm economics with innovative food, beverage and service. We work closely with farmers and ranchers to showcase the abundance of agriculture and artisans in our state. We showcase Oklahoma beers and Oklahoma owned wines. Our main local sources are Living Kitchen Farm, Windmill Ranch, JB Pratt, and Middle Mountain Dairy. We work with close to 30-40 different purveyors on any given day (but) they change as often as the seasons, and sometime as often as Oklahoma weather.”
Chef Donaldson began her culinary journey at the Wild Oats cheese department in Tulsa and later attended culinary school in Las Vegas at Le Cordon Bleu, where she graduated Top Toque. She worked at many prestigious establishments in Las Vegas before returning to Tulsa where she worked as chef de cuisine at Polo Grill and then at SMOKE on Cherry Street under Chef Erik Reynolds, another influential local food proponent.
Chef Donaldson has been named Oklahoma Chef Ambassador to The White House for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge 2 years in a row and uses her talents to uplift philanthropic organizations. She has participated in “mentorship, meal outreach for the elderly and poverty-riden, Tornado relief for the Tulsa Community Food Bank, Wine, Women and Shoes event, KWERO, Catholic Charities, Wine and Roses, Waltz on the Wild Side, Habitat for Humanity, 40 Under 40, MHAT, and Chef’s for Kids Las Vegas,” just to name a few. She is also a participating supporter of Youth Services of Tulsa, and is an active board member of Meals on Wheels.
When Chef Donaldson isn’t working or volunteering, she’s being a great mom to her daughter Odessa who is 3. She considers her “my greatest creation.”
Please consider nominating Chef Donaldson and helping to shine the light on her, Tallgrass Prairie Table, the city of Tulsa, the state of Oklahoma and the local food producers and farmers that help make it great. For her the nomination means, “recognition of hard work. It means as a woman, my career is just as valid as the 20 other guys next to me. It means that Oklahoma is coming into its own and hopefully being recognized for the amazing things we are doing with food and community. It means I just have to keep pushing myself harder and harder every day to represent the state, city, and craft I love so much. It’s one more reason my daughter will look up to me and strive to kick ass in her life.” To nominate Chef Donaldson, please follow the link, fill out a quick registration and cast your nomination. http://bit.ly/1LcbLdZ You can find out more information at www.JamesBeard.org The 2016 James Beard Awards Gala will take place in Chicago on Monday, May 2.