Convention Center staff, volunteers crush for a cause

Convention Center staff, volunteers crush for a cause

📅August 31st, 2016, 16:06

At the end of last year’s tomato growing season, Knoxville Convention Center Chef Chris Moore, Sysco Business Manager James Bosi and several other area chefs sat down to come up with a solution that would feed hungry East Tennesseans and prevent food waste. The resulting inaugural Tomato Crush event was held in our industrial kitchen, and volunteers produced more than 1,000 gallons of healthy tomato sauce that was distributed through Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

For the second annual event in 2016, Chef Moore set the challenge to produce even more sauce. Dozens of volunteers were at the Knoxville Convention Center last weekend roasting, crushing and processing thousands of pounds of fresh and canned tomatoes into a record 1,100 gallons of sauce.

James Bosi processes tomatoes into sauce with his daughter, Kate, at last year's Tomato Crush event. This year's Tomato Crush is being held in memory of Bosi, a champion for changing the conversation about healthy eating, leader of the Food Policy Council and business development manager at Sysco. Bosi passed away in March after a long battle with cancer.

James Bosi processes tomatoes into sauce with his daughter, Kate, at last year’s Tomato Crush event.

One person was noticeably missing this year – James Bosi. As the business manager at Sysco and member of the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council, Bosi was a champion of providing access to healthy locally sourced food for everyone in East Tennessee. Bosi, who was a founder of the event, passed away after a battle with cancer earlier this year.

Multiple Sysco volunteers helped with the 2016 event in his memory, and Sysco represented the largest food donation for the event again. Bosi is deeply missed, and we hope this annual event will continue to serve as a tribute to his passion for helping others.

The main ingredients of tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil were donated by Sysco, US Foods, Reinhart Foodservice and local farmers. Chef Moore made a few tweaks to this year’s recipe, including roasting the fresh tomatoes for easier, quicker production. The recipe was delicious, and you can make it at home by downloading the recipe here.

Volunteers of all ages participated in the event. Children were placed on tomato crush duty to mash the canned fruit for easier processing into sauce. Other volunteers chopped fresh tomatoes, onions and basil to place in the sauce.

Greg Eisele, chef of the University of Tennessee Culinary Program, brought many of his staff and students to assist Knoxville Convention Center Sous Chef David Jackson and his team in the roasting and cooking of the sauce.

At the end of the process, the tomato sauce was placed into vacuum-sealed bags and frozen for distribution throughout the year. The 1,500 gallons of sauce will ultimately provide meals for approximately 6,000 families of four in the East Tennessee area. Thank you to all of the volunteers and local chefs who helped make our second annual Tomato Crush a resounding success!


Jay Bryce, Debbie Bryce, Phil Bryce, Julianna ArellanoThe Bryce family heard about the event on the news and came down to crush tomatoes. From left, Jay Bryce, Debbie Bryce, Phil Bryce and Julianna Arellano.

Chef Walter LAmbert, Judy ChildressWVLT-TV Chef Walter Lambert dropped by and helped volunteer Judy Childress of the University of Tennessee Culinary Program.

Kim Beets, Ella JacksonKim Beets, the food and beverage director at the Knoxville Convention Center, directs 5-year-old Ella Jackson in crushing tomatoes.

Tony Brown, Maddox BrownVolunteer Tony Brown brought his son, Maddox, to volunteer at the event after hearing about it on television.

Jeff and Christi Lambright, Everleigh, Ella JacksonJeff and Christy Lambright help their daughter Everleigh, left, and her friend, Ella Jackson, crush canned tomatoes for easier processing into sauce.

Photo Aug 27, 11 42 11 AMOur volunteers created a lot of tomato juice and captured the crushed juice in large containers, which was added to the sauce.

Mandy Newman (Sysco), Gina KaeuberMandy Newman of Sysco and Gina Kaeuber take on the tough task of chopping onions.

Will Moore, Kim AultWill Moore, son of our executive chef, and Knoxville Convention Center staff member Kim Ault chop the basil for the sauce.

Photo Aug 27, 11 46 42 AMOven roasting the tomatoes was an improvement this year in the process, as it sped up production so our volunteers could make even more sauce.

Blaize Welch, Greg EiseleUT Culinary Program Chef Greg Eisele cooks the sauce with Blaize Welch.

Jacquie CrochetUT Culinary Program Chef Jacquie Crochet pulls out finished sauce from one of the Knoxville Convention Center’s large cauldrons.

Sous Chef Jackson JacksonKnoxville Convention Center Sous Chef David Jackson shows off the final product that has been vacuum-sealed for distribution through Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.