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502 Bar & Bistro’s Executive Chef, Ming Pu

The 502’s Ming Pu Promotes Sustainability Through Great Eats & Activism

Oct 18th, 2019

The 502 Bar & Bistro’s executive chef, Ming Pu, is more than just a nationally-acclaimed culinary wizard. The fact that the young chef has been recognized by the NYC-based James Beard Foundation and featured in various Food & Wine Festivals around the country is only part of what he brings to the table. Aside from recently rolling out a delectable new seasonal menu at The 502, as of late, Pu has been engaging in his other passion – culinary activism.

While Pu has been a longtime advocate of farm-to-table initiatives and sourcing ingredients locally, he has recently expanded his focus. A stint at the James Beard Foundation’s Bootcamp for Policy and Change – a high-end chef immersion weekend with only 15 chefs selected to attend nationwide – inspired Pu to champion three food-related causes: SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; sustainable seafood sourcing; and sustainable produce sourcing.

So what does advocacy look like for a busy executive chef who always has – excuse the pun – a full plate? It’s a multi-pronged approach, Pu says. For SNAP, which is essentially the modern day food stamp program, he and his chef colleagues tap members of congress regarding the importance of SNAP and petition them to maintain benefits for families in need. Social media goes a long way in raising awareness, Pu says, and he and fellow chefs will often tag politicians in posts to get the word out in a public way. Education about the program and its benefits is also essential, according to Pu.

Sustainable seafood is another issue close to Pu’s heart, especially given the widespread practice of overfishing. Sourcing seafood responsibly is crucial to preserving fish populations for future generations, Pu says. Vowing to only use sustainably sourced seafood, Pu and The 502 Bar & Bistro are James Beard Smart Catch Leaders, a special designation given to only two restaurants in Kentucky. Smart Catch Leaders purchase and serve only sustainably-sourced seafood. They are also monitored to ensure compliance with program guidelines. One of Pu’s aims is to convince other restaurants to jump onboard. Though he has just started meeting with other restauranteurs for that purpose, he’s optimistic about the initial response.    

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Featured: White wine poached and roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese and gremolata

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Featured: Joyce Farms Chicken, Brussels Sprouts Confit, Black truffle Vinaigrette

Perhaps his most prolific cause, though, is sustainable produce sourcing. Local harvests have long been part of Pu’s cooking, and his work at The 502 is a prime example of regional ingredients put to good use. Part of sustainable sourcing is using what’s in season and buying locally, he says. This takes a fair amount of planning on Pu’s part, and he meets with farm managers from Ashbourne Farms, located in La Grange, Kentucky, four times a year to order seasonal goodies. Ashbourne will actually plant what Pu requests, which is essential to his seasonal menu specials. And it’s not terribly costly, Pu says. “Everyone thinks that buying local is expensive, but that’s not true if you plan ahead and buy smart.” Through his efforts, he’s directly – and deliciously – supporting farm-to-table initiatives.

Check out Chef Pu’s work for yourself at The 502 Bar & Bistro, located at 10401 Meeting Street in Norton Commons. Naturally, his autumn menu will feature local produce and sustainable seafood and meats, so you can feel good about eating well. Call 502.742.4772 for reservations.

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