PathwaysARTS in Chilmark presents chef-author Jamie Sparks in conversation with a Q and A about her new cookbook, “Fooding: A Chef’s Journey Through Food, Farms and Community on Martha’s Vineyard,” on Tuesday, April 20, from 7 to 9 pm. Guest farmers joining the discussion include Brian Athearn, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society and owner/farmer at Runamok Farm, Dan Marino and Greg Martino of Cottage City Oysters, Heidi Feldman of Martha’s Vineyard Salt, and Tim and Tricia Colon of the Island Bee Company.
Sparks found herself working as a private chef on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2019, having just published her first cookbook, “Cooking for Conservation, Tchad: A gastronomic safari,” which was inspired by her time working as a chef and culinary arts trainer in a number of National Parks in Africa. With her next cookbook in mind, Sparks knew very soon after arriving that it would be based on her experiences on the Island. According to a press release, she became enthralled by the vibrant local farming community and the “shared ethos amongst its members.” The book soon evolved into a journey to meet farmers and members of the community, paying homage to them with recipes and stories through the words in her book.
Sparks graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, in 2006 and has since worked across the globe. She has completed internships in well-known Michelin-rated restaurants, worked at famous eateries in Las Vegas, and cooked on some of the world’s most luxurious yachts. Sparks was born in the United States, but now calls Africa her primary home. She has been visiting Martha’s Vineyard since 2010, and has been a private chef here several months of the year since 2019.
Beginning in 2015, Sparks’ passion for culinary arts became closely aligned with a keen interest in conservation, which led to her commitment to Africa’s wildlife. This landed her in Zakouma National Park, where the Tchadian government works in collaboration with the U.S.-based NGO African Parks to protect the habitat and struggling elephant population. It took several years to understand the cuisine of the region, and by 2018 Sparks had trained a new generation of Tchadian chefs, focusing on local ingredients and honoring their heritage. From her desert kitchen she created an original 350-page book — with 75 cents of every dollar earned from sales going back to the organizations that make a difference in protecting special places where wildlife can thrive.