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.”
Director, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
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.
When people ask me how I got into food activism, I tell them: “It all started with clothes.” Having always enjoyed designing and sewing my own clothes (I’m a crafter at heart with a propensity for bright colors), in college, I became fascinated of the question of where my clothes come from. Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that pretty much everything I purchase in a store was probably made under sweatshop conditions (low wages/no wages, physical and verbal abuse, rape, even slavery in some cases)… and that got me thinking: What about all the other things I buy? I mean, everything comes from somewhere, right? This is especially important when making food choices.
One of my biggest weaknesses is chocolate. (That and fortune cookies…don’t ask!) And there is just something about biting into a piece of rich, creamy-smooth milk chocolate that came from cocoa beans that were likely picked by someone who was trafficked and consequently enslaved… that just rubs me the wrong way. So all of a sudden, here I am—a color-loving-crafter-gone-food activist working at Bon Appétit Management Company. I figure that since I eat, I have a responsibility to try and make sure that what I’m eating benefits not only me but the world around me as well. And I consider it an honor to be working for a company that agrees with me on that point as well.
As for my role at Bon Appétit—I’m the East Coast Fellow. I spent about half my time traveling to college campuses along the East Coast, putting on events, speaking with students, and trying to raise awareness about different food sustainability issues. The other half I travel to farms—talking to farmers and farmworkers, trying to get a better understanding of what issues exist at the farm level.
West Coast Fellow
I fell in love with farms while studying in Damaraland, Namibia during college. I hadn’t guessed that it would be the farmers, not the nearly-extinct desert-dwelling black rhinoceros I set off to research, who would change my way of looking at the world. The more time I spent studying the local habitat, the more I learned about the challenges farmers face and the more respect I gained for their perseverance and strength.
When I returned to Carleton College, located between fields of corn and soybeans in Northfield, Minnesota, I decided it was time to make changes to the way we ate food on campus. I wanted to support farmers and businesses I believed in. Thus, the Food Truth movement for more sustainable and just food was born. Among bike pedaled smoothies, panels on ethical eating, and tours to local farms, our campus community decided that after 40 years of the same foodservice provider at Carleton, this was the perfect time to bring Bon Appétit Management Company to our campus. We wanted more delicious dining but also – and most important – real food from good farms.
Since my passion for food began, I have learned about and practicedurban agriculture, permaculture design, and organic farming. I have worked on food policy at the campus, state, and, now with Bon Appétit, national level. I know that whenever I am not growing food full-time myself, I will advocate and work to support the people who do.
I joined Bon Appétit Management Company as the West Coast Fellow in 2009 because Fellows are in the unique position of travelling to the farms that supply food to our kitchens, and learning firsthand the challenges faced by those who produce food. In my travels, I meet Bon Appétit chefs, growers, and diners. All advocate having a food system that is transparent, safe, healthy, and fair for farmers, farmworkers, and eaters alike. I am proud to work for a foodservice company whose values are stitched into who we are from inside out.
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 Massa
cre, 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.