Michael Martin: The advantages of family mealtime

In 2005 Michael Martin moved back to Franklin from the Czech Republic. He came with his wife, Romena, and their two children. Keeping the bicultural family environment was important. Their son and daughter speak two languages and they keep Czech traditions; such as the annual Christmas cookie bake - seven varieties of some 1,000 cookies.

Michael is practical. His teenagers and wife join in mealtime production. He depends on a four-burner electric stovetop and favored utensils; a sharp chef's knife, a solid wooden cutting board, an iron skillet and a stainless steel pan. "Parents and their kids have got to start cooking together. It is imperative on so many levels. I really do think that most of the world's problems would be solved if every person on the planet shared in the preparation of food, sat down at the family table and ate together."

To this end Michael is devoted to teaching the tenets of healthy eating. For a start he teaches culinary classes at Franklin High School. He hopes one day the lessons come back full circle into their own family kitchens.

Michael's job as the Marketing Team Leader for Whole Foods Market in Cool Springs has allowed him many opportunities to bring his love of food and cooking into the community. Since partnering with the Whole Foods Market mission, the Franklin High School (FHS) culinary class held competitions to create a special group of dedicated students to cook for the Nashville visit of 'Renegade Lunch Lady' Chef Ann Cooper. "They cooked all of the food, donated by Whole Foods, under my direction and served it." The natural foods store also sponsored the FHS Project Graduation this year. "We provided all of the food and drinks for an overnight event, designed to offer a safe and fun night for graduates."

Additionally, Michael has been working with the Franklin Housing Authority leading classes on healthy eating. "I'm teaching young folks how to make homemade pizzas and stir fry with fresh vegetables." The students had a class about growing fresh vegetables with community organizers Good Food for Good People. Whole Foods also partnered with the group to donate food for the food recovery program run out of the new Cool Springs market. The program positively impacts the Hard Bargain and Natchez areas of Franklin.

Michael's roots are in Franklin. "Our family always had a garden here in town. We grew Black Seed Simpson lettuce, my favorite," he says with a smile. He's always had a strong work ethic. While attending Franklin High School, he was a prep cook at the Conrad Road General Store. "I learned a lot from the 4:30 AM arrival time in pursuit of biscuit making."

After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Michael became one of the youngest head chefs in Nashville for the newly opened Sunset Grill. He then worked his way around Europe landing in Prague, Czech Republic, where he became the first American Chef to the U.S. Ambassador, Adrian Basora. While there, he planned and supervised special events, receptions and official dinners for political dignitaries. Ultimately, he had a restaurant of his own design in Slany, Czech Republic - Restaurant 89. The catering requirements developed his food and beverage management skills. Michael's career has also included the development of culinary productions for renowned chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paula Deen.

Since Michael's arrival at Whole Foods, he has spearheaded the store's work with the Franklin Farmers' Market. The store's initial involvement included the sponsorship of the Saturday Market information table and now includes serving a mix of Whole Foods' favorites and local products. One is Delvin Farms' braised kale and another is Mac-n-cheese with Hatcher Farms' dairy cream. Michael is excited to be even more involved with the addition of the Tuesday Franklin Farmers Market at the new Whole Foods' parking lot. "Our goal this year is to have our chefs' shop at the market on Tuesday and then prepare local food to sell at the Saturday market at the Factory."

Michael also champions the Whole Foods Market Loan Program providing low interest loans for local producers and is responsible for Whole Foods' being the primary sponsor of the Tennessee Organic Growers Association's annual conference for the past four years.

Anyone who has worked with Michael Martin quickly comprehends the enthusiastic and hard working chef and marketing manager's mission. He wants to create a better world via a healthy family dinner table and succeeds one meal at a time.