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Bon Appétit Management Co. Blog
Below are the frequent contributors to the Bon Appétit Management Company blog. We also accept guest posts from Bon Appétit employees around the country.
Alyse Festenstein, Midwest Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
As I child I waited all week for Sunday evening dinners at my grandmother’s house. She was like a magician in the kitchen — skillfully maneuvering around her apartment kitchenette, whipping up dishes as if out of thin air. Through her Pepto-Bismol colored borscht, pickled beef tongue, and lots of schmaltz, she introduced me to the flavors of our Eastern European roots and Jewish culture. While I have to admit I never did get used to the flavor (or idea) of the tongue, the food and stories shared around the table kept me sated with a connection to my history. The Sunday ritual firmly grounded me in a network of people, places, and an identity. These dinners were my first lessons about the power of good food to build connections between people.
As a college freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, I joined the student farm on a whim. Food and flavor were a foundational component of my upbringing, but growing up in the suburbs I had never given much thought to growing food or the agricultural system that produced it. It only took a couple of days at the Burning Kumquat Student-Run Farm (the BK) to awaken a deep curiosity about the food system. From lessons in pest management and soil health to selling produce at the city farmers’ market and learning about the agribusiness giants in our own backyard, the BK showed me that eating and growing food are political acts. Sharing a meal, caring for the soil, and learning about food issues bring people from all sorts of backgrounds together to help change a broken, unjust system.
During my years at Washington University, I organized events to inspire appreciation of food, build community, and raise awareness about the impact of agriculture on people and the environment. This work pushed me to explore further. Through my studies in anthropology and economics, I focused on the impact of of Western models of economic development on agricultural practices and communities. I spent my summers interning with a farmers’ market in a neighborhood with little access to fresh produce, volunteering on a small goat dairy, and working with The Healthy Schools Campaign for food justice in Chicago’s public schools and communities.
I have always admired Bon Appétit for its commitment to use its purchasing power to push the food industry towards sustainability, and I could not be more excited to join the team as the Midwest Fellow. I see it as incredible opportunity to connect students with the stories and people behind their food and help them engage with the most critical issues in our agricultural system.
Nicole Tocco, Senior Fellow, BAMCO Foundation | Nicole’s posts
I like to believe I was always an environmentalist, but it wasn’t until reading Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver in college that a passion for the Earth’s natural resources took priority. I was studying business at the time, and since then my passion for catalyzing the private sector to create real environmental change has been a guiding force in my education and career.
I was focused on corporate sustainability, but eventually it became undeniable that I gravitated toward food issues every chance that I got. While at the University of Massachusetts, I worked for the Massachusetts Farm to School Project and afterwards, moved to New York to work for Rainforest Alliance. I continued down the East Coast to pursue a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University.
Which makes sense. I grew up in a big Italian-American family and food is at the heart of every fond memory that I have. In addition to being an avid eater, I love nothing more than cooking a good meal for friends and family. I rarely sit still (a typical Boston girl!) and the closest I get to meditation is when I’m making homemade pasta or bread. So it was only natural for my passions to combine over the years into what I hope will be a career at the intersection of sustainable business and food.
After graduate school, I wanted to work for a company whose growth would mean something positive for this country’s food system. I accepted a job with Bon Appétit Management Company as an operations manager and, after eight months of learning how food service actually works, transitioned to my current position as East Coast Fellow. As a Fellow, I am thrilled to spend my time speaking with students about the most pressing food issues and traveling to farms to learn more about their practices and the challenges that they face.
Claire Cummings, West Coast Fellow, BAMCO Foundation | Claire’s posts
Food has often been a source of comfort, frustration, curiosity, and inspiration for me. Much to my family’s chagrin, as a child I dabbled with vegetarianism after learning the true origin of a hot dog from a fellow 5th grader. My work ethic was formed next to a wood-fired oven — in high school, I spent evenings serving in a local restaurant — and some of my most valued friendships were formed over Sunday brunches spent at “the Bon” at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon.
Still, it wasn’t until I co-chaired the campus’s annual environmental symposium that I began to fully appreciate the power of food. The theme in 2011 was “Following the Food Chain,” and I was eager to discover how food related to environmental studies and international affairs (my minor and major). In the year I spent designing this four-day conference, I began to see how food relates to so many of the problems and solutions our world faces. I was inspired that eating, a universal act, could make complex global issues accessible to all. That inspiration changed the course of my college research. I ended up writing my international affairs thesis on the motivating factors behind U.S. food aid donations to North Korea.
After the symposium, I went on to intern with Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, working on urban design issues related to food. Fresh out of college, I moved to Washington, DC, and took on a number of odd jobs, including assistant manager of a local farmers’ market, waitress at an American-craft-beer bar and restaurant, and cooking educator for an urban farm in the heart of the LeDroit Park neighborhood. Most recently, I was hired to create a food policy council so that Maryland doctors, families, farmers, politicians, chefs, and entrepreneurs have a place to come together and craft policies around food to improve the economy, the environment, and the health of their communities.
I have worn many different hats within the good food movement, but I have yet to work for such a large company with such an admirable mission. The Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation Fellowship allows me to work under a business model I respect, in a position that brings together all that excites me about food.
Bonnie Azab Powell, director of communications (and blog editor) | Bonnie’s posts
I first became interested in food politics after reading Eric Schlosser’s investigative triumph, Fast Food Nation, which confirmed my vegetarianism, but really became swept up in it when I began reading Michael Pollan’s articles for the New York Times Magazine, which eventually became chapters in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I first interviewed Pollan in 2003, as he was about to join the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, where I was working at the time. In May 2006, inspired by the publication of Omnivore’s Dilemma, I cofounded the blog The Ethicurean, which focuses on sustainable food and food policy, and December that year I created the Bay Area Meat CSA, the first Community Supported Agriculture program for meat in the San Francisco area, now called Meatshare.org. I later started Clark Summit Farm Meat Club, which I still manage, and Soul Food Farm‘s CSA, for which I still host a monthly pickup.
Before joining Bon Appétit Management Company, I was the food editor of Grist and the deputy editor of Edible San Francisco. My food-politics writing has been published in the Washington Post, Mother Jones, Sierra, San Francisco Chronicle, Gastronomica, Meatpaper, Financial Times, Wired, Culinate, Culture, and Edible San Francisco. Working for Bon Appétit represents a natural step in my food-politics trajectory: I’m thrilled to have gone from writing about how people are trying to change the food system to being part of a team that is doing so, on a grand scale. And I still get to blog!
Kristen Rasmussen, nutrition consultant | Kristen’s posts
My interest in food and nutrition began at an early age, when the less-than-enticing available lunch options persuaded me to pack her own. As I grew older and my gastronomic abilities progressed, I considered attending culinary school, but discovered the field of nutrition during my first year at UC Berkeley and instead decided to become a dietitian. From the classroom I learned about the necessity of nutritious food for optimal health and, although I have always been aware of the connection between healthy food and the environment, my passion for the sustainable food movement developed during graduate school where I worked with many farmers and local food advocates.
A true believer in the cause, I have participated as board member and delegate for Slow Food chapters and contributed to several publications and blogs including Civil Eats, Organic on the Green, and Edible Phoenix. I grew up along the Northern California coast and currently reside in San Francisco, where I work as a consultant dietitian in various capacities and acts as president of the Bay Area Dietetic Association. I am happiest when cooking and believe a healthy lifestyle necessitates the enjoyment of great food. I have always admired Bon Appétit and am delighted to be a part of the team.
Maisie Greenawalt, vice president of strategy and BAMCO Foundation president | Maisie’s posts
Having joined the company in 1994, just a year out of college, I’ve grown up at Bon Appétit Management Company. When asked where I learned about sustainable food systems (and I get asked that a lot); the answer is quite simply “here.”
I set my sights on Bon Appétit after reading an article in a trade magazine about the company’s innovative restaurant-style approach to food service (that “aha, I have to work for that company”-moment has left me with a soft spot for PR). I decided to seek out a position anywhere in the company I could. I got my foot in the door as an employee services coordinator and over the ensuing 14 years have been lucky enough to grow and take on responsibility for communications, marketing and culinary strategy.
Being the child of “bohemian” parents who worked in the non-profit sector, my rebellion was going into the business world. I wanted to focus on restaurant service not social service. Yet, the value my parents put on community seeped in somehow and when, in 1999, the Bon Appétit Farm to Fork program was born, a piece of my heritage was awakened.
In the last nine years, I’ve become an activist in a way I never thought likely. I relish the ability to use Bon Appétit’s purchasing power to make changes in the supply chain and I thrive on the passion I hear from our people when they talk about our company Dream. I take great pleasure in pushing the company forward and proving that a for-profit business can act with both a warm heart and a scientific mind. And, I only cringed slightly when in conversation with Fedele (our CEO) I heard myself quoting my mother’s frequent invocation of the Buddhist Eightfold Path to say my work at Bon Appétit is “Right Livelihood.”