Nora Pouillon

Chef

When I moved to the United States in the late 1960s from Vienna, Austria, I was surprised and disappointed by the highly processed, chemically laden foods eaten here. In realizing the connection between the foods we eat and personal health—and the health of our environment—I made it my mission to promote healthy, wholesome, organic foods. Today, I’m proud to own Nora’s, the first certified organic restaurant in the United States.

As a chef, I find the threats to fish particularly disturbing. Through my work with SeaWeb, I’ve been active in spreading the word about pesticide impacts and the effects of overfishing on our oceans and its inhabitants.

In the 1970s, I invested an enormous amount of time and effort to seek out organic and natural farmers in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Establishing these connections jumpstarted the farm-to-table movement, and I introduced other local chefs to these farmers, whose businesses prospered. This success later inspired me to initiate FRESHFARM Markets, Washington, DC’s first producer-only farmer’s market.

I’d like to think that my supporting local organic farmers has made an impact. With the publication of books like Silent Spring, it became clear that indiscriminate pesticide use was harming America’s wildlife. Among the hardest hit areas was the Chesapeake Bay, where species such as bald eagles and Peregrine falcons declined, while sea turtles, amphibians, and fish also suffered the consequences of pesticide exposure.

As a chef, I find the threats to fish particularly disturbing. Through my work with SeaWeb, I’ve been active in spreading the word about pesticide impacts and the effects of overfishing on our oceans and its inhabitants.

While I was doing my part to protect nature, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. Many of these imperiled species have made a comeback. For instance, I can now see bald eagles on the Potomac River, just a stone’s throw from my restaurant.

Today at Restaurant Nora, I serve a variety of wild foods—Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, Rhode Island calamari, Maine Dayboat scallops, Chincoteague black bass, and foraged ramps and morels. This incredible bounty, in conjunction with the certified organic produce and meats raised by our local farmers, is available because of our joint efforts to protect nature.

As a chef, my connection to nature is so clear, every day. I live, breathe, and eat it. You do too.