“Chefs Cycle” is an endurance event intended to raise funds for No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization that works to end childhood hunger in America.
Taos-based chef Wilks Medley will join well-known chefs and other members of the culinary community from all over the country to participate in the 300-mile ride with the intention of “fighting hunger outside the kitchen.”
The 2017 ride will take place from May 16-18 in Santa Rosa, California. This is the third such event, and people involved hope to raise $2 million this year.
“This means around 20 million meals for kids,” said Medley.
Medley and his wife, Colleen, opened their own restaurant, Medley, in 2015. She specializes in pastries and desserts while he prepares almost everything else.
This is the second year that Medley will take part in the “Chefs Cycle” ride.
“I was invited to join by a good friend of mine who is also a chef,” he said. “His boss helped start ‘Chefs Cycle’ and we both got involved through him.”
Training is essential for this physically demanding ride.
“It is also the hardest part,” Medley said. “It takes a lot of time and commitment to be able to do it.”
The first year, Medley rode around 100 miles in preparation for the event, but this time, he says that he has logged 5,000 miles.
“It’s difficult to ride in Taos during the winter, but I’ve done a of indoors training using a stationary bike and spinning,” he said.
As a result, Medley feels he is “in the best shape [he’s] been since high school.”
“I like the event because it is a way for people in the industry to help others, to put food on kids’ tables,” he said. “It’s really cool to see so many hospitality people taking time out of what is a hard life to do some collective good. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for chefs and members of the culinary community, who don’t always have the healthiest lifestyle, to take better care of ourselves.”
In 2016, Medley was part of a big dinner that took place the night before the race.
“One of the guests was the principal of an elementary school that had received donations from No Kid Hungry to start an in-room breakfast program,” he said. “She told us that their students’ national testing average went up 10 percent after they received the donation, and that makes perfect sense. To learn, you need to be properly nourished.”
For Medley and other participants, the news also meant “emotional nourishment” before the ride started.
“It was great to hear that,” he said. “It made the effort and the pain we endure more tolerable.”
Participants get up around 6 a.m. and start cycling the day of the event.
“There’s no racing aspect to it,” Medley said. “We are all just trying to finish!”
They ride the 300 miles in three days, which means 100 miles each day. It takes about seven to eight hours for them to complete their daily ride.
“There are some rest spots along the way, so we can get water and food,” Medley said.
Last year, 135 chefs rode along the California coastline – from Carmel to Santa Barbara – and raised more than $1 million to support No Kid Hungry.
“It was so successful that this year, we are looking to double that,” Medley said.
Medley’s personal goal is to raise $10,000 dollars at first. “Later, if possible at all, I would like to get $15,000,” he said.
He plans to hold some fundraisers at the restaurant, like raffling a wine dinner for two, and other events to raise awareness about the cause.
“If Taos takes to it, I’d like to start an annual event here,” he said. “It could be a smaller-scale event, like a ride along the Enchanted Circle.”
An anonymous donor is willing to match any donations that come from Taos by 20 percent up to $3,000 and donate that.
In between training, Wilks and Colleen Medley are giving the finishing touches to their spring and summer menus.
“We want to add more vegetable-centered dishes and replace some items with new, more creative ones,” he said. “We will plant a garden up front with chiles, herbs and maybe tomatoes.”
Their second annual “Silver Oak & Twomey Wine Dinner” will be held on April 26.
“We are especially excited to taste the 2007 and 2012 vintages of the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon side by side,” he said.
Two special brunches, for Easter and Mother’s Day, are also on the way.
“We will have a nice, elegant brunch buffet,” he said.
Medley will be part of the second annual “Taos Lilac Festival Taco Cook Off” on May 21 at Kit Carson Park. It will take place just a couple of days after the bike ride.
“I will be ready for some tacos then,” he said. “We are also doing a wine dinner in conjunction with the Lilac Festival later, on the same day.”