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Blog: Contributors

Below are the primary contributors to the Bon Appétit Management Company blog. We also publish guest posts from Bon Appétit employees around the country. 

Nicole Tocco Cardwell, Manager of Strategic Initiatives | Nicole’s posts

Nicole Tocco Cardwell

I joined Bon Appétit in 2011 as a dedicated environmental activist with a passion for sustainable agriculture. With my Masters of Environmental Management degree in hand, and fresh memories of a summer spent on small scale agriturismos in Tuscany, I was ready to join the food service industry and use my education to help transform it for the better. Little did I know that my education was just beginning.

From farmworkers’ rights and greenhouse gas emissions to regional food sheds and sustainable seafood, being part of the Bon Appétit dream has deepened my understanding of food systems issues and challenged me every single day to be part of solutions. Now, as Manager of Strategic Initiatives, I oversee the Bon Appétit Fellows program, waste-related programs, and work on social, environmental and transparency–related projects. As my journey continues and new challenges arise, I’m excited to be able to share stories and reflections here.

Carrie Cullen, Fellow | Carrie’s posts

Carrie Cullen at Hastings Dairy Co-op

When I was a toddler, my oldest brother convinced me that he had found me on a chicken farm and taken me home because he felt sorry for me. I didn’t eat an egg for nearly a decade in empathetic protest. It was my first scrape with food ethics.

Years later, I went to film school at Emerson College in Boston. There was a time when I wanted to make horror movies, but upon arrival, I quickly found something more frightening than Dracula — an environmental crisis. My love for the natural world and passion for film inspired a binge of environmental documentaries, many of which were agriculture centric. My new path was solidified following a period of health problems for me and my loved ones that pointed to the toxicity of our environment. With a mixture of fear and inspiration, I launched full force into life as an environmental communicator and activist.

My college days were spent taking environmental classes, organizing campaigns, living on farms, and creating socially charged art. There was one theme that kept reappearing in my work: food. Be it sustainability or social justice, food was an important piece in the bigger puzzle. This link was solidified when Bon Appétit began servicing my college’s dining hall during my senior year. I was inspired to have the support of the dining staff and moved by the integrity of the company’s mission. The path I’ve been following has led me to Los Angeles as a Bon Appétit Fellow. I am humbled to learn, grow, and create change with students whose shoes I so recently walked in.

Claire Cummings, Waste Programs Manager | Claire’s posts

ClaireCrab-300x200Food 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 the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation Fellowship is the first to bring together all that excites me about food. Over the past year, my work as a Fellow led to the creation of our first ever Waste Specialist position — and I’ve become a trash-talking, waste-fighting garbage guerrilla. I’m proud that Bon Appétit has doubled its food-recovery programs, developed implementation guides for launching reusable to-go container programs, supported the development of a new kitchen-waste-tracking system, and partnered with farmers to address waste in the fields.

Maisie Ganzler, Chief Strategy and Brand Officer | Maisie’s posts

maisie-onthefarmHaving 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.”

Lily Gross, Fellow | Lily’s posts

Lily Gross at CUESA’s farmers’ market

A Michigan native, I grew up spending most of the summer catching frogs and picking wild black raspberries at my grandparents’ cottage. Looking back, that portion of my childhood existed in a curious utopia.

As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of the social and environmental issues in our world and in particular, our food system. I began to read everything I could get my hands on about food, eager to find solutions. Senior year of high school, I started a club to inform students about eating well and supporting local organizations that try to improve accessibility to food. After graduation, I took a gap year that included three months in Bolivia and Peru. While there, I learned that increased demand for quinoa in the U.S. has driven up prices, making what was once a major dietary staple in South America unaffordable to those who live there.

After this eye-opening experience abroad I started at Denison University in Granville, OH, determined to learn as much as I could about food systems and create change at the university level. I majored in environmental studies, collaborated with the Bon Appétit team at Denison, and did summer research on colony collapse disorder in bees. When asked about post-graduation plans, I’d respond: “I want to go into the private sector, work in food and beverage, and fix the food system.” Yet I was unsure of how to productively direct this passion into a career that could create positive change in the food industry. When Bon Appétit’s general manager at Denison, Paul Taylor, mentioned the Fellowship to me after a meeting, I knew I had found the perfect fit.

Maggie Kraft, Waste Programs Specialist | Maggie’s posts

Fellow Maggie Kraft

Fellow Maggie Kraft

Growing up, food was a central part of my life. It brought my family together after our jampacked days of school, work, and sports practices, and on weekends often included extended family. I was always looking for  excuses to bake and cook, inventing pancake recipes and reading every cookbook in the house. I flirted with the idea of culinary school — and instead fell in love with the mountains and the opportunity to run cross country at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

There, I had my first introduction to the concept of local food and sustainable sourcing. When I stepped into Rastall Café, managed by Bon Appétit, I noticed all of the information posted about where ingredients were coming from and started my path to learning with the slip sheets on the café tables.

My time abroad — a dichotomy of being surrounded by amazing food in the markets but served mystery meat for dinner — inspired me to share my passion for cooking with others. After working at a bakery and restaurant, I joined FoodCorps, a national nonprofit that serves vulnerable public-school children by improving their access to healthy and affordable food, where I continued to learn about the challenges and problems within our food system, particularly when it comes to sourcing for institutions.

I am excited to join a leader in sustainable sourcing. I look forward to continuing to educate myself and others in the ways that we can care for ourselves and the world around us by making intentional and delicious food choices.

Sam Martin, Fellow | Sam’s posts

Sam driving a tractor with a hay baler

Sam driving a tractor with a hay baler in Bishop, CA

When I came to Pitzer College as a first-year student, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated. I was interested in nature and our relationships with it, but that was about it. I picked Pitzer in part because it offered a unique major called Environmental Analysis, which applies the social sciences, arts and humanities, and natural sciences to understanding and solving environmental problems. Due to this interdisciplinary approach, my years at Pitzer seem somewhat like an academic hodgepodge. Nevertheless, nearing the end of my senior year, I remember looking back and realizing that many of my courses, on-campus projects, and summer work shared one common element: food.

In my environmental justice class, I remember extensive discussions about the impacts of chemical applications on farmworkers and neighboring populations. My soil science classes analyzed the importance of sustainable agriculture in conserving soil, growing food, and maintaining healthy ecosystems. In natural resource economics, we tackled regional water policies in the U.S. and contemplated economically viable methods of reducing carbon emissions. Outside of class, I worked for the campus sustainability office and collaborated with the Bon Appétit team to support their initiatives: resurrecting a food-recovery program, tracking compost data, managing a reusable dining item check-out program for events on campus, and creating informational materials for food-related events. I worked on Pomona College’s Annual Sustainability Report, wherein I tracked and analyzed food purchases for a self-operated institution feeding a campus of several thousand students, faculty, and staff. And last summer, I experienced farm life first-hand by interning at a 2,500-acre hay ranch and driving tractors every day.

These experiences have given me a good foundation to understand our food system and its issues. Now, as a Fellow, I hope to build on those understandings, engage with others about food, and drive change in this beautiful yet tough industry.

Bonnie Azab Powell, Director of Communications (blog editor) | Bonnie’s posts

Woman holding pigletI’m a former vegetarian turned conscious carnivore and a former food-politics reporter turned corporate communications director.  I first interviewed influential food journalist Michael 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 2006, inspired by the publication of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I cofounded the blog The Ethicurean, which focused on sustainable food and food policy, and also created the first Community Supported Agriculture program for meat in the San Francisco area, which became the Clark Summit Farm Meat Club.

Before joining Bon Appétit Management Company in 2011, I was the food editor of Grist and the deputy editor of Edible San Francisco and an active freelance writer. Working for Bon Appétit was 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.

Cheryl Sternman Rule, National Marketing Manager | Cheryl’s posts

Cheryl Sternman RuleAfter an eclectic career that included stints at the U.S. Department of Justice, in the Peace Corps, and at a major research university, I turned professionally to food. Unwilling to give up my equally strong love for the written word, I found a way to combine my new culinary career with my passion for storytelling. The next 12 years were a happy mashup of freelance articles, restaurant reviews, magazine editing, recipe developing, and cookbook authoring. (I’ve written two books: Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables; and Yogurt Culture: How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest, Healthiest Food.) Through it all, I traveled whenever I could, learning firsthand about the culinary culture of far-flung lands like Israel, the Greek islands, and Mexico City; about wild salmon fisheries in Cordova, Alaska; and about the strawberry industry in California’s Central Valley.

Only one company could entice me to abandon the freedom of self-employment, and that company was Bon Appétit. I was impressed by the company’s values, commitments, industry standing, and ability to influence large-scale, positive change. And when an opportunity arose to give up the freelance lifestyle to contribute meaningfully to the country’s most forward-thinking food service provider, I leapt.

Today, I feel like I’ve landed in the best place possible: a place where high-energy creatives—chefs and food systems experts, marketing professionals and nutritionists, change-makers and businesspeople—work tirelessly to improve what ends up on people’s plates.

Shannon Tivona, Fellow | Shannon’s posts

Shannon TivonaWhen it comes to food, I would say my primary skill set definitely lies in eating it. However, I wasn’t always a great eater. As a child, my mom used to line the table with bowls of various dipping sauces, and I would have to try a new food in every single one until I found one I could tolerate. From there, I had to make sure there was no food touching on my plate and had to eat with my eyes closed because I didn’t like the look of many foods. Bless my dear sweet parents for putting up with my nonsense. Thankfully I have developed past my picky eater days and now pride myself in the fact that you can put anything in front of me and I will eat it. I have eaten my way across the world through exciting travel, I have eaten my way through many family gatherings, and now it seems I have eaten my way right into my dream job.

Focusing on food sustainability was never my intention (see above childhood aversion to anything that was not cheese). When I left the foothills of Fort Collins, CO, to attend Eckerd College I had every intention of becoming a marine scientist. However, my skills as an eater soon prevailed. For the first time in my life I could choose what I wanted to eat for every meal. Pretty soon I started following my food. I wondered where it had been before it got to me and where it went if people didn’t eat it. My freshman year I founded the Food Recovery Network chapter at Eckerd College. Well, after that I was hooked. I changed my major to Environmental Studies and started my path to food sustainability. I conducted research on life-cycle assessment for food products, I worked to create a campus farm plan, and as intern for the Office of Sustainability and Director of Culinary Relations worked closely with Bon Appétit to implement sustainability projects.

All of this work has prepared me for this position as a Fellow, where I get to encourage others to follow their food. I am proud to say that not only have I followed my heart but also my stomach.


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