Capitol Grille's Tyler Brown Takes the LEAD in School Nutrition



Tyler Brown shows off some of the okra from the farm at Glen Leven.
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  • Tyler Brown shows off some of the okra from the farm at Glen Leven.
Chef Tyler Brown of the Capitol Grille receives quite a lot of recognition for his skill in the kitchen, most recently a write-up in Garden & Gun praising his sybaritically outrageous Sweet Vidalia Onion Bisque, which I absolutely must order on every visit. Chef Brown is also a member of the Founders Council of the upcoming Atlanta Food and Wine Festival and will be making two appearances at seminars during the festival. Here's his schedule in case you want to road trip:

Friday, May 20, noon to 12:45 p.m.: Southern 101: All Roads Lead to the Farm — panel discussion with Brown, Chris Hastings, Will Harris and John Besh, moderated by Scott Jones.

Saturday, May 21, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Whole Animal — cooking demonstration with Brown, Sean Brock and Linton Hopkins.

But there are a lot of other great things that Chef Brown undertakes with little expectations of recognition. His work in the period garden he has created at Glen Leven continues to amaze me. That he somehow finds time to plan, plant, weed, feed and harvest so many crops for use at the Hermitage Hotel and in the Capitol Grille and Oak Bar amazes me, not to mention that he still holds down the executive chef duties for the hotel. Hell, I can't even keep up with back episodes of Good Eats on my DVR.

Since September of last year, Brown and many other members of the staff at the Hermitage have taken on a project to help educate the students of Nashville's LEAD Academy to address the issues of hunger and childhood obesity arising from poor nutrition. The program combined hands-on gardening experiences at Glen Leven with classroom instruction to help teach students to make the right choices in what they eat.

LEAD Academy is a charter school located in the old St. Vincent de Paul campus near downtown and the Brookmeade Elementary building off Charlotte Pike. Their mission is to do whatever it takes to graduate 100 percent of their students and send them to a four-year college. In an initial visit to the gardens at Glen Leven, Chef Brown showed the students the importance good nutrition and the possibilities of a garden in an urban setting. Brown then visited LEAD every other month for further programs that incorporated food and nutritional advice into the school's curriculum. Then the fortunate students got to enjoy a lunch prepared with vegetables from the garden at Glen Leven.

On April 20, this year's seventh-grade class had one final meeting with Chef Brown where they left their footprints for next year's class to follow. They prepared seeds, created scarecrows for the summer and painted harvest baskets for next fall's bounty. The kids at LEAD got a great deal out their relationship with Chef Brown and the staff at the Hermitage, but in my discussions with some of them, I think the Hermitage folks consider themselves the lucky ones for being able to help out a class of pretty remarkable kids.

I hear about new initiatives all the time to improve the nutritional health of elementary school-age children in our community. Hopefully programs like Tyler Brown's can be replicated to help spread the gospel of fresh produce, urban agrarianism and empowerment to students across middle Tennessee.

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