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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.
S.K. Piper, Midwest Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
When I started my college education at Case Western Reserve University, I was already interested in animal rights. I was a vegetarian throughout much of my childhood, and have rescued animals for as long as I can remember, whether it was lady bugs from drowning in the local pool, worms from being stepped on along the sidewalk on my way to elementary school, or rats from being euthanized at my high school. But I hadn’t had any real experience with activism until a Spanish teacher inspired me by talking about all the injustices happening in Latin America, like El Mozote Massacre, the School of the Americas, sweatshop labor, etc. I took off running, organizing trips to protests, events on campus, even making presentations trying to get campus groups to switch to Fair Trade t-shirt suppliers.
Food became a way for all my interests in the environment, workers’ rights, and animal welfare to come together. I switched to being a vegan and buying organic produce at the local food co-op, and with the help of Bon Appétit’s CWRU team, I put on educational events that served only Low Carbon food (for an Earth Day event one year, we served all-local, vegan dishes). When it came time to do my senior project in environmental studies, I chose to work with a local non-profit that was campaigning against palm oil plantations because in their quest for more land, they were displacing entire communities. My final paper was titled “United States Driven Repression and Environmental Destruction in Columbia”, and focused largely on how foreign policies such as Plan Columbia and agribusinesses such as palm oil were causing deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
My path to becoming Bon Appétit’s new Midwest Fellow started through a serendipitous meeting with current Fellow Carolina Fojo, who I invited to speak at a Fair Trade expo on one of her visits to CWRU. I am so excited to be able to continue planning events and raising awareness on college campuses about the important issues surrounding food. When trying to explain to a friend at CWRU what I’d be doing for Bon Appétit, she interrupted me and said, “So it’ll be just like college for you, except without all the classes!”
The other half of the Fellows’ job is to visit the local farms that provide food to our cafés and help inform consumers about the food they’re eating. Bon Appétit has so many amazing initiatives: I’m honored to be a part of this team and to be able to help educate people about how their food affects people, animals, and the environment.
Nicole Tocco, East Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
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, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
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.
Liz Sullivan, project assistant
I grew up in a home with an environmental lawyer and a therapist, making me acutely aware of the importance of protecting the planet and having compassion for those around me. At age nine, these characteristics manifested as a protest against the development of a nearby field — home to jack rabbits, owls, and native plants — into a movie theater. Though my poster-and-letter-writing campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, the activist seed was planted. It expressed it self in different ways throughout high school and college, and it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco after graduating that I discovered a passion for local, sustainable food.
And once I realized it, I started making changes left and right. The farmers market became a Saturday morning ritual. My kitchen saw a lot more action. When I did go out, I asked befuddled waiters where the fish on my plate came from. After reading Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I committed to vegetarianism and became passionate about learning about the industrial agriculture system. I started shopping at a local co-op for groceries and discovered the joy of the bulk bins. I was, and continue to be, fascinated by the intersection of food with individual health, the environment, and social norms.
My journey was mainly personal until I started working at Bon Appétit. Here, I found people who are not only passionate about changing the food system, but are actually taking action to do something about it. In my position as project assistant, I work on all sorts of interesting projects, from writing blog posts to supporting the team in the field. I am proud to be a part of an innovative company that continues to successfully challenge the status quo.
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!
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.
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.”
There haven’t been farms in Brooklyn for 200 years, but an 8×8 plot shared with another 8 year-old at the Botanic Garden in my hometown introduced me to the taste of fresh produce. I proudly seeded, watered, and plucked every weekend. I’ve long been a vegetable-centric eater, and growing my own or harvesting odd things like gooseberries from my grandparents’ backyard confirmed my view, early on, that supermarkets mostly sell cardboard – content as well as packaging.
My mother didn’t share the same passion – Wednesday featured pork chops, Thursday spaghetti, Friday breaded flounder. I think we ate enough flounder to overfish the species ourselves. I became the principal dinner-maker at aged 14.
Food’s my long-time passion, but I’ve gone from valuing sheer variety to appreciating how food is grown, the challenges of producing it, how to use the whole agricultural product, and treasuring the ripe taste and shape of a product in season. The bulk of my food now comes from a CSA box and daily meal preparation is a welcome mathematical game: to prepare a meal that has leftovers only for the next day’s lunch, using as little energy as possible, that satisfies the flavor critics in the three of us.
I bring personal experiences to my role as director of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation. With a mission to educate chefs and consumers about how their food choices affect the global environment (and to catalyze supply chain changes), I look for those connections every day. I am especially proud to be the architect of the Company’s Low Carbon Diet program, whose purpose is to raise awareness of the connection between the food system and climate change reduce emissions associated with Bon Appétit’s food service operations by 25% over five years.