When you think of charity rides, AIDS/LifeCycle probably comes to mind, but pedal philanthropy is a growing movement benefitting an array of worthy causes — this week’s Chefs Cycle, a three-day, 300-mile charity ride in Sonoma, California, for No Kid Hungry is no different. It’s an event where chefs, sommeliers and members of the culinary community fundraise and ride in the hopes of ensuring that all children in our country have access to food so they can develop, learn, thrive and eventually make their mark on the world. This year’s fundraising target is $2 million, which will help feed 20 million meals to children facing hunger.
California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys attract cyclists like bees to honey, so it makes sense that charity rides would take place here. As a lead up to Chefs Cycle, chef, cyclist and CampoVelo co-founder Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb, Acacia House, Boccalone) and his partner Rebecca Kotch whipped up a charity weekend event called CampoVelo. For their inaugural weekend (April 28–30, 2017), they had one main objective (beyond being a solid fundraiser and setting a good cycling stage): to be fun for everyone, cyclists and non-cyclists alike. In six short months, they brought that to life. “The name translates to bike camp,” Cosentino points out. “Think of it as summer camp with fun things to do that also has a charitable component. It all makes people feel good.”
It makes sense that chefs and those in the food industry would want to level the playing field when it comes to access to food. Chefs are obsessed with food — sharing it, transforming it, savoring it — so it follows that what might drive a chef crazy is if someone doesn’t have access to any food. It also follows that cycling — one of the biggest calorie-incinerators in the fitness world, and a sport that taxes you mentally and physically — could be the stage for bringing all of this together. “If I can cook and raise money to feed children, it kills two birds,” Cosentino explains. “If I can suffer on the bike for kids, I’m winning — it’s a win-win situation.”
Last year, Cosentino participated in nine charity events and Kotch has put together a number of fondos and charity rides around the country, namely Bottega Gran Fondo and CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo. So these two aren’t new to the charity or cycling scene. Chefs like Seamus Mullen and Bryan Voltaggio, sommeliers like Ken Fredrickson and current and former pros like Lucas Euser, Ted King and Bob Roll all took time to partake in some or all of the three-day event. “The trifecta of food, wine and cycling is real. I think the cycling community is one that cares about health and wants to give back,” Kotch notes. “This event complements healthy food, eating well and cycling in some of the most beautiful parts of the country. It’s about doing good things for yourself and for others.”
Over three days, they raised money for four charities: Chefs Cycle (end childhood hunger), Napa County Bicycle Coalition, Napa Valley Vine Trail and World Bicycle Relief. Different rides and events highlighted each of the different charities and, of course, served as a training ride for Chefs Cycle. The rides cover the spectrum — from an all-women’s ride and mountain bike ride to an espresso ride with King, donut rides and a big ride.
I rode the 80-mile big ride Sunday. It was a gorgeous day and the pack stayed pretty tight until the first rest stop. After that there were some serious descents and rollers that brought us to Ink Grade, up to Calistoga and back to Charles Krug for the post-ride celebration of Charles Krug wines, beers from Mad Fritz Brewing, paella, pizza and Cosentino’s famous pig roast. It’s quite possible it ended up being a calorie-positive day.
The dates are already set for the second annual event, which will be held from April 27–29, 2018. Ready, set, mark your calendars.