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Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: KORI PETROVIC

May 26, 2016

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Kori Petrovic, Youthmarket Program Coordinator at GrowNYC, is passionate about educating children about the food system. We all need guidance and opportunity to be able to make good food and life choices, and Kori is a crucial figure for our New York youth. You can follow Youthmarkets on Twitter @NYCyouthmarkets, and read Youthmarket staff experiences on their blog—Young & Green Homegrown.

For those just getting to know you, please tell us about your role at Youthmarket.
Youthmarket is somewhat different from a regular Greenmarket that you’re used to seeing on the streets. Instead of farmers coming to the market to sell their products, we buy wholesale produce through Greenmarket Co. and hire youth from the neighborhood to sell the produce at the stand. That way we provide seasonal jobs to teenagers, bring fresh produce to underserved communities, and support regional farmers. Youthmarket is also an educational program. We teach the youth how to run a small business; through cooking demonstrations we teach the community how to use veggies they’re not familiar with, and ways to store produce so it lasts longer; and through nutrition education workshops we show them how much sugar is in sodas and how many calories are in their favourite fast food meal. My role at the Youthmarket is to coordinate all fifteen Youthmarkets across four boroughs—from hiring and training the market managers and youth, to maintaining equipment and keeping track of paperwork. In a nutshell, I make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Foodstand celebrated Food Revolution Day last week, on May 20th. What does a food revolution mean to you?
A food revolution means going back to the basics—meaning more cooking at home from scratch with simple and fresh ingredients. I think as a society we distanced ourselves from the kitchen and communal cooking, and we’re too busy to share meals and enjoy what we’re eating. We should definitely start paying more attention to where our food comes from and how we’re using it.

What does the food world look like post-revolution, and how do we get there?
In my ideal post-food-revolution scenario everybody would have their own garden plots, would be involved with planting their own food, and would prepare food themselves. Wishful thinking. In a not-so-ideal-post-revolution-world we would just be more aware of what we’re eating—less processed foods and more home-cooked meals.

How did you first get involved with Youthmarket?
I first got involved with Youthmarket when I was part of GrowNYC’s program “Learn It Grow It Eat It.” It’s a program that works with high school teenagers, teaching them how to grow and maintain organic fruits and vegetables in three community gardens in the South Bronx. During the summer, as part of their summer job, they learn how to cook with fresh produce, teach smaller kids about gardening, and conduct simple nutrition workshops in schools and health centers. Part of their weekly job is to run a Youthmarket. At that market, three groups of five teens rotate through selling the produce, conducting cooking demos, and presenting simple nutrition workshops.

How do you define good food?
For me good food is tasty food. The kind that makes you go mmm. Food that makes you feel good after you eat it. If it’s prepared with fresh ingredients and potentially didn’t travel too far, all the better!

Who is your food inspiration?
My mum, firstly! I learned a lot by watching her prepare food while we were in the restaurant business. Secondly, being a food blogger myself, I’ve learned tons from my fellow bloggers as well. I now use spices and ingredients I probably wouldn’t use otherwise.

We believe that food can help change people’s lives. Can you tell about a success story you’ve seen at Youthmarket—how a youth’s life has been changed for the better by his/her involvement?
Every season about 60-70 teens participate in our program and early in the season most of them will be reluctant about trying fresh produce. However, by the end of the market season they’ll often proudly tell me what new fruit or a vegetable they tried and really liked (or disliked); they’ll tell me how they started to eat more veggies, and how they prepare meals at home that they share with their families. Some of them will tell me they reduced the amount of sugary drinks they drink; others say they stopped eating chips. These are small steps that lead to big changes. By positively changing their habits they directly influence their friends, siblings and other family members.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
At the end of the season—after the youth have struggled with cold and rainy weather in October and November, after the hundredth time the tent wouldn’t open, or a customer would complain about something—I’ll hear from the youth how this job was a great learning experience and how it changed them. They’ll usually tell me how it helped them improve their public speaking and that they are less nervous when speaking with new people. As a result they socialize more with their school mates; they are more outgoing, and more likely to try new things. In general, they become more confident and more patient. These are the stories I value, and these stories make my belief stronger that, indeed, we are doing something meaningful and worthwhile!

Are there any personal beliefs that you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
I think we are wasting too much food in general. We either buy too much of it and it goes bad in our homes, or we prepare it and don’t eat everything—in both scenarios too much food ends in the garbage and eventually in the landfills. We should start paying more attention to where our food ends up. Since I started composting my food scraps I have reduced my garbage by more than half. More and more places are offering drop-off sites, and it’s becoming easier to deal with the waste. This personal belief led to finally adding compost drop-off at two Youthmarkets this year. I hope that number will grow next year.

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If you had to make a food resolution this year, what would it be?
To make a new dish by mastering a new cooking technique at least once a month.

What has been your biggest work-related challenge?
One of the struggles that continuously repeats year after year is dealing with the lateness of youth staff. Out of the whole pool of teens, there are always a few that are late more than others. For a lot of them it’s their first job ever and each teenager has a different learning curve when it comes to working at a new position. I usually start by talking to them to see what’s going on in their life (personal or professional) that’s making them being late. Some may just need a subtle reminder, while others require more clearly defined consequences to get the point. If talking doesn’t work, with the help from the manager we try to work on their motivation. We’re all late from time to time, so I start at the softer end of the scale, and take stronger measures only when nothing else seems to get through.

Weather can also sometimes be a challenge. Two years ago we had a lot of cold and rainy market days in October. You have to be innovative to keep everyone’s spirits up and keep everyone positive. I always try to encourage the managers to find fun activities during the day to take their minds off the miserable weather. On the other hand, last season was very sunny and dry. We have yet to see what this year brings us.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
One of the important issues to address soon is more support for small, diversified farmers! By providing small family farms a viable outlet through which to sell their products, we help preserve farmland. Protecting family farms becomes a shared goal for both farmers and their consumers when we create more local food systems that in turn create direct-to-consumer markets that further strengthen relationships between farmers and their consumers.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Less processed food!

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
During my childhood in Croatia, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house. Polenta and thick homemade yogurt was a spotlight breakfast before we took off to do our farm chores. But nothing could beat grandma’s warm bread with the best homemade rose hip or plum jam—the smell and the taste of which I still remember pretty vividly. I also loved chewing honey comb right after my grandfather pulled it out from the bee hives! (I also remember him saying a bee sting is good for arthritis!)

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t running the Youthmarket program, I’m pretty sure I would be involved in some kind food-related field. I think in today’s world it’s crucial to educate children and adolescents (and adults) about the food system and food cycle. Giving kids an opportunity to learn about the issues that affect food, and to take an active role in their own nutrition, prepares them for a lifetime of considering both health and sustainability when making choices about the food they eat.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Nobody in particular comes to mind. If I could, I’d really like to have a meal with a Native Indian a few centuries back. I think it would be truly remarkable to find out more about how they gathered food, prepared it and what different cooking techniques they used.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
Honey, carob powder, olives and dry sage! I love to bake so I use honey instead of sugar, and you can never go wrong with carob powder in sweets, and olives in salads. Sage tea just tastes wonderful, hot in the winter or with ice cubes in the summer.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
My favourite meal-on-the-go is oatmeal with roasted butternut squash, honey, chopped walnuts and cinnamon in a jar—it’s a great stress reducer (in combination with WQXR classical radio) while I’m driving the Youthmarket van on the FDR during the morning rush hour!

Favorite recipe?
One of my (many) favourite recipes is brownies with seasonal fruit (cherries and currants are soon to be found at the farmers markets!) Note: Once you click, scroll down for the English translation.

Your good food wish?
Cook! Experiment with new ingredients and try not to eat alone.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: DANIEL NOWLAND

May 19, 2016
Photo credit: Matt Monroe for Jamie Magazine

Photo credit: Matt Monroe for Jamie Magazine

Daniel Nowland is the Head of Technical at Jamie Oliver Ltd. What does that mean? (We had to ask too.) Basically, anything involving food values, ethics and sourcing is Daniel’s domain—he develops Jamie’s Food Standards, and implements them. So he helps spread the sustainable, good-food word across the world!

You can help spread the good-food word, too—tomorrow is Food Revolution Day! Join Foodstand at the farmers market for our Jamie Oliver recipe demo. Can’t wait to see you there.

Tell us about what you do at Jamie Oliver Ltd.
My role is to manage Jamie’s food values, which affect how we run our business as well as set the tone for engaging with other organizations. The role involves a lot of learning, as the issues affecting our food systems continually evolve. I also then help to ensure we are in line with our own values, across everything we do.

How do you define good food?
I’d say it’s food that has been responsibly produced and responsibly consumed. Good food can include the basic nutrients we need to be healthy, as well as the pleasurable, less healthy stuff that keeps us smiling.

What does a Food Revolution mean to you?
I think it’s that moment of realization for people that good food is better for everyone, including the planet and the producers. It’s where people wise up to the dangers of too much cheap, processed food, and discover the benefits of consuming food more responsibly.

What does the food world look like post-revolution?
It is simply where people make well-informed choices about the food they source and how they consume it. Consumers will understand that price and value are very different things. Transparency in supply chains will allow consumers to select foods based on their values, tastes and quality. Consumers won’t be mislead or sucked in by multimillion dollar marketing campaigns for food that will slowly kill them and the planet.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Knowing that my job is to help drive positive change, and seeing the influence we can have with Jamie behind us. Working for a business with a real sense of purpose is an honour, and something that I never take for granted. There are few businesses in the world that genuinely put responsible behaviour and ethics at the heart of what they do.

What are the personal beliefs you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
For me it is about animal welfare and livestock systems. My most memorable day as a food science student was when I visited a slaughterhouse for the first time. It’s where the penny dropped in terms of how animals we observe on farms are linked to the products on our supermarket shelves. It sounds silly, and kind of obvious, but it’s not until you see a large animal being slaughtered, and the process involved, that you fully appreciate the scale of the systems behind the supermarket meat aisle.

It did not put me off meat, but it made me very aware of what I was buying. I went on to work in the meat industry after graduating, and was aware that animals were living and dying in order for me to eat well, and to pay my mortgage. The compassion I gained working in this sector is something I have definitely brought to the Jamie Oliver business. I have helped to define standards for good animal welfare which we use internally, as well as spread through our relationships with other organizations.

If you had to make a food resolution this year, what would it be?
I believe me and my partner are in a good place already with the food we buy, cook and eat. We cook from scratch as much as possible and now make all of our own bread. However, I travel a lot, and therefore rely on food service in train stations, airports and hotels. I need to find ways to eat better food when I’m away from home. It’s really hard to make responsible choices when you don’t have your kitchen anywhere close. It’s really frustrating that food service doesn’t have the same level of transparency on things like animal welfare as the retail sector does.

What are Jamie’s sustainability practices?
We have a set of food values which include Ethical Buying, Environment and Waste as key topics. We believe when responsible practices occur in all three of these areas, we are helping to improve the sustainability of our food. Our Ethical Buying policy ensures all animal products in our business are from “higher-welfare” sources and our seafood is responsibly sourced. Our values in these areas not only determine how we run our business, but they also shape the work of our foundation, and our campaigning.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Gosh… I could write a very long list! If I had to pick one, it would be to regulate the environmental footprint of livestock. i.e. incentivise producers to focus on more sustainable methods of rearing livestock, and discourage the mass production of low quality proteins, as the long term effects they have on human health, environment and sustainability are horrific.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Eat less meat, enabling you to buy better when you do.

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What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was obsessed with TV cookery shows as a kid, and was never really interested in kids TV. I would then beg my mum to let me cook our family meals so that she could have the night off. By the age of 14, me and mum were sharing all of the cooking in our household, and generally all sitting and enjoying meals together as a family. I loved to be the one providing nourishment for my family through good food, although my early cooking was really basic (mainly putting things from the freezer into the oven!).

I remember working in a Fish and Chip shop on Tuesday nights as a teenager when Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef” first appeared on TV. I was hooked and would end up getting orders wrong as I was more interested in the 14 inch TV I was watching. I’m not sure what I was more in love with, Jamie himself or the food he was cooking! I dreamed I would meet him one day, but never imagined I would end up working directly for him.

Not everyone has access to farmers markets or a wide variety of fresh, sustainable produce. What does Jamie recommend for those with limited resources?
We’ve never suggested that farmers markets are the only option for responsibly produced foods. Supermarkets stock some fantastic food too, but you need to be able to tell it apart from the rubbish they can also sell. Using supermarkets, but avoiding the poor quality processed foods is a good way to shop. Base your shopping on whole fruits, vegetables and quality meat and fish. Always read labels on meat, fish, eggs and dairy, and go for products certified for higher-welfare or sustainable sourcing.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t wrapped up in the food industry as seriously as I am now, I would have liked to be running my own small cafe somewhere. I’d love to be working in a food environment and working closely with the general public. I would of course be championing only responsibly produced food! A cafe with a view of the sea would definitely be a bonus.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
A few years ago I’d have said Jamie Oliver, but I’ve done that many times now! I would love to have dinner with John Cleese. He is a comedy hero of mine, and I’d love to spend the whole evening talking about Fawlty Towers. (It’s a British comedy about a small chaotic hotel made in the 1970’s). Ideally in a good British country pub drinking beer and eating a beef and ale pie.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
My favourite food-on-the-go is a burrito from Chipotle. I get the chicken burrito in the UK, or the Tofu Sofritas if I’m in the US!

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
My fridge trick is to always keep the drained fat from bacon or sausages in a jam jar in the fridge door. I then use it for sweating vegetables or making pasta dishes, as it gives a lovely salty, smoky depth to food, without having to add any actual meat.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
My biggest #foodfail was when I was working as a chef in a pub in my teens. I was serving a roast beef lunch to around 100 guests after a wedding. I had miscounted the plates and servings, which meant around 10 guests never received any meat. The bride was in tears and blamed me for ruining her wedding. The groom was so angry a fight nearly broke out too. It was a day I was glad to put behind me.

Favorite meal?
Aside from lovely British food, my favourite food is traditional Greek. I spent all of my childhood summers in the Peloponnese, which is the Southern mainland of Greece. There the food is very local, seasonal and extremely fresh. My most favourite meal is a simple Greek salad, crusty bread and fresh fish. Whilst I’m tempted to keep it a secret so that it never becomes too busy, this place is probably one of the best spots on earth to enjoy a Greek salad, local table wine and fresh fish whilst looking out to the Aegean Sea!

Your good food wish?
Think about every item of food you buy. Every purchase of food is a vote for the system it came from!

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: MICHAEL MOSS

May 11, 2016
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Photo credit: Daniel Sheehan

Michael Moss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has most recently developed an important and successful career writing about health, marketing, policy and corporate interests relating to the food industry. His illuminating book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and a must-read. In fact, Michael will be joining Foodstand’s Food Book & Film Club to discuss the book on Tuesday, May 17th—please join us!

How do you define good food?
It’s all good to me. Seriously. Well, maybe not okra, just because my mom made a pretty slimy version that still sits in my 8-year-old memory bank. And maybe not soda, which I’ve pretty much written off as pure evil. But just last week I made a cake for my 12-year-old’s birthday, and it was all salt, sugar and fat. And yesterday, I wolfed down some potato chips, also salt, sugar and fat (the sugar in the form of potato starch that our bodies convert to glucose.) For me, the issue is controlling that stuff rather than letting it control me. So day in and day out I’m looking to eat food that I cook from scratch, lots of vegetables (with the above mentioned exception) grown by farmers and farmhands who are fairly compensated, meat from animals that are treated as kindly as possible before they have one really bad day, and I try to keep a damper on the raging bliss point for sugar that both my boys have because they are kids.

Do you think big food can be part of a better food future?
No. Well, yes, but indirectly. The Food Giants have never been good at true invention. About the last thing they invented, in fact, was instant pudding, and that happened only because the company panicked that it was going to get beaten at this by a competitor. Their idea of a new product is one with a new package color. What they can do is buy up small start-ups that do invent stuff, and it’s these little entrepreneurs who are now racing to reinvent processed food to be low-cost, convenient, tasty and actually good for you, too. So if the Food Giants are smart, they’ll buy the best of these entrepreneurs and hopefully won’t ruin them by scaling up.

What was your biggest challenge writing Salt Sugar Fat?
Cravings. I’d be spending time talking to the guy who figured out why potato chips are so irresistible, and it would take all the effort in the world to resist grabbing a bag for myself and pigging out. Just the talk, and extraordinary science the companies use, would send the reward centers of my brain into overdrive. (Once I finished, however, things changed, and now I can walk through the grocery store and just laugh at those chips, knowing all that goes into their design and marketing, which oddly enough empowers me to make smarter decisions about what to buy.)

What first inspired you to write about health and food?
A couple of FBI agents and a really smart editor at the New York Times. In 2008 I was in Algeria reporting on militants there when the agents showed up at the paper in Manhattan, looking for me. Since 2005 I had been traveling to Iraq, tormenting the Pentagon for failing to equip American soldiers with body armor, and then reporting on how the war was empowering terrorists to recruit new help, which the agents said had landed me on an Al Qaeda hit list. I hustled back to New York, and right into another war, this one over food. My editor, Christine Kay, had spotted an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts processed at a factory in southern Georgia that were sickening thousands of people, used by a $1 trillion processed food industry that had lost control over its ingredients, and Christine recognized this for the huge story it was. A year later, after investigating the industry’s shoddy handling of hamburger, I started looking at three things the industry intentionally adds to its products with huge repercussions of public health, namely salt, sugar, and fat.

Talk a little about “bliss point”—what is it? And how did you react when you first heard the term?
Well, as the food scientist who coined this expression, Howard Moskowitz, said, “What are you going to call it, `optimum sensory liking?’ ” You have to love the language the processed food industry uses to describe its efforts to maximize the allure of its products. Its people talk about “engineering” products to be “craveable,” “snackable” and have “more-ishness.” And the bliss point is right in there. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, not too little and not too much, that sends us over the moon and their products flying off the shelf, and when I first heard Moskowitz describe this, I was sort of blasé. I mean, well of course the industry does this. We are creatures born to love sugar. Just look at our taste buds. The ones that like sweet are all over the tongue.

Do you think it’s possible to reset America’s bliss point?
The problem with the bliss point and sugar is not that industry has perfected the sweetness for cookies and ice cream, things we know as sweets and should be treating as treats. The problem is that the industry has marched around the grocery store adding sugar to, and engineering bliss points for, things that didn’t used to be sweet. So that bread now has added sugar and a bliss point for sweet. Some yogurts came to have as much sugar per serving as ice cream. And pasta sauce, forget about it. Some brands ended up with a couple of Oreo cookies worth of sugar in a tiny half cup serving, and what that has done is create an expectancy that everything we eat should be sweet, which is a problem especially for those little walking bliss points for sugar called kids when you drag them over to the produce section and try to get them to eat some of that okra. Instant rebellion.

 

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What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I’m first of all a reporter, and so I still get a big kick from crawling inside the underbelly of the processed food industry to discover some new, totally surprising scheme on its part to get us to not just like its products, but to want more and more. But I’m also spending time these days working on my speaking, with some pretty good success, and so I’m having great fun holding an audience captive for an hour or more, telling my food story, and the most rewarding moment is when someone tells me the book or the talk has changed their life.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
Not to make tacos for dinner more than twice a week. My kids are actually pleading for this. My wife is working long hours, so cooking has fallen to me, and boy is it hard to go week to week without boring the shit out of the family with the same old recipes.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
What do you mean barely? Didn’t Cruz say he loved eating cheese on cheese? He would have been perfect for the dairy marketing schemes I wrote about that tripled our consumption to 33 pounds a year on average by moves like stuffing cheese in the crust of pizzas. And Clinton recently came out for the soda tax, which I’ve come to like. I’d ask the now-presumptive Republican nominee to champion the use of smarter marketing practices by the produce industry to sell more vegetables, and thus nudge us all toward better health. Didn’t he hear they were all aphrodisiacs?

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I can tell you what one Food Giant’s chief technical officer did when he blew out his knee and could no longer run marathons to burn off calories. He stopped eating his company’s own products, cold turkey, knowing that he was one of the many of us who couldn’t stop eating snacks until the whole bag was gone. He also stopped consuming calories in liquid form, that is drinks, which I think is really interesting. I’m trying to do the same, and thankfully everyone knows that wine and beer don’t have calories.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was a latchkey kid at age 10, and loved to come home to strawberry Pop Tarts. Then just a while ago, I was visiting the secret R&D facility of Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan, where way off in the corner someone was cooking up a huge batch of Pop Tarts, and wow, the aroma wafted over and took me right back to childhood. It’s incredible what those memories can do.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Taking pictures. In a war zone. I was so glad I went to Iraq as a reporter, not a photographer, because they have to shoot while the bullets are flying and that’s totally addictive. It was hard enough for me to give up reporting on war, and I wasn’t even a war reporter, but rather just dabbling.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
I’m a little nuts about sourdough bread these days, so in my fridge is a starter, and in the freezer is a variety of flour. Friday night after family movie time I’m usually in the kitchen plundering the starter for a Sunday bake.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Lately, walking down the street, I like a nice handful of pistachios in the shell.

How have your eating habits changed since writing the book?
Not terribly. We started eating better in my house when my now 16-year-old son was born, thinking that was one thing we could do to avoid ruining him. More recently, after reporting on some shocking experimentation undertaken by the Department of Agriculture to make farm animals more profitable at the expense of their well-being, I’m pretty ruined even for taco trucks unless I know the chicken or ground chuck is not industrial and instead comes from animals the USDA hasn’t ruined.

Sugar, salt, and fat continue to be at the forefront of food discussion—e.g. “sugar is the new fat, fat is the new delicious…” What are your reflections on the book given the current environment?
I love that “salt sugar fat” has become a thing. But I have a confession. As much as I focused on them, and the industry’s own deep reliance on them has been getting us into trouble, the solution is not to just dial back on salt sugar fat, which all the Food Giants are now racing to do, concerned about losing the trust of consumers. The biggest way to better health, nutritionists tell me, is getting more vegetables and other good stuff into your mouth, which the companies have lots of trouble putting into their products.

Your good food wish?
That we should all be so lucky as to be in love with food and with eating.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: BARRY BENEPE

May 6, 2016

 

There was still a little chill in the air the day Foodstand’s Summer Rayne Oakes (@sugardetoxme) sat down to interview Barry Benepe. They agreed to meet at the Union Square Greenmarket on a Wednesday—one of the busiest market days of the week (~300,000 walk throughs in a given day) —and spend a good forty minutes talking about how it all came to be. It is the Greenmarket.

Barry, who was an urban planner in the 70s, went on to spearhead urban revival throughout New York City by ushering in the creation of our city’s Greenmarkets as a way to connect urban dwellers to surrounding farms. So in a way, you can say that Barry is the Father of NYC’s farmers markets. That’s how Summer introduced him to those who stopped by Foodstand’s demo booth at the market when Barry paused to thank Summer for the interview. Rest assured—the people there were genuinely starstruck, particularly because the 50+ Greenmarkets and 15 Youthmarkets in the city have become a fixture for many-a-people’s daily or weekly shopping habits. Here’s how it all began:

Why did you go with “Greenmarket” vs. the more traditional “farmers market”?
We talked to the city law department and consumer affairs and we wanted to have them say the “farmers market”. To do it legally they had to be farmers selling farm produce. They wouldn’t do it until city council passed a law. So we couldn’t go farmers market and then had to explain what a Greenmarket was—from the farm to table. You are really dealing with farmers—buying from the farmers. It used to be the farmers that sold, and it wasn’t until recent years that they began hiring city people. Even now, the farmer has to be there a certain number of days in the year.

Who was initially buying [from the market]? Ordinary citizens? Chefs?
Everyday people. Not chefs. Danny Meyer from Union Square Cafe said he located here because the market is here. He is devoted to local produce. That was the beginning of chefs shopping here, and I believe they pay retail prices when they shop here. I think there are at least 70 chefs that shop here now, if not more.

How often do you cook for yourself at home?
All the time. I love cooking for myself. I’m totally inventive. I love food. I love leftovers especially! One thing I do: I never repeat a meal.

What were the problems that you were looking to solve when you came up with the idea for creating a farmers market in New York?
I was a planning consultant and I hired a man named Bob Lewis… I had developed a zoning map that was unique. Up until that point, zoning maps were flat. I had a sense of the larger picture of land and how it was used.

While Bob and I were working with our clients, we saw the lack of attention to farming. That led Bob and me to discuss how we could help farmers save farming. The other thing that was obvious to us was that the quality of food in our stores was terrible! In August when peaches are ripening in Long Island, they weren’t appearing in New York. They were hard and green and from California or somewhere else. There was no sense of food taste, smell or handling—everything was wrapped in shrink wrap. We didn’t have a sense of real food. We wanted to link the sense of a farm economy with a concept of nutrition and enjoyment of eating food.

Also, I grew up on a farm. My father bought the farm in 1938 when I was 10, and as I became a teenager, I worked on the farm. I helped harvest, package and deliver the food to market which was usually an auction block. Or canneries for tomatoes and freezing plants for food to be frozen. None of it was shipped fresh. Occasionally my brother would drive to the market in Baltimore or maybe in New York to sell wholesale by the basket, but generally none of our food wound up fresh on anyone’s table.

Was there anyone running something equivalent to a farmers market at the time—whether in the city or otherwise?
The city of Rochester was running a successful farmers market program run by the Chamber of Commerce. And they did it because they wanted to bring business downtown. Business was suffering and they thought a farmers market would do it, and they were correct.

The woman who was head there, Susan Snook, was very generous with information and helped us get started. Bob also read about Richard Po who was part of Williams Farmland Preservation. Richard Po gave us a cash contribution of $800 to go out and raise money. At that time I did a feasibility study for the city to do a farmers market. We went to a couple of foundations—the Kaplan family (part of Welch’s Grape Juice) made a donation, and America the Beautiful Fund to bring life to city spaces.

Any stories of farmers markets in the city before yours?
Well, when I was looking for farmers, I came upon a farmer by the name of John Monaghan who I was told used to farm in Queens. He was a man in his eighties—and don’t forget this was in 1976. And he told me that he remembered being a young man in his 20s and coming to sell at the foot of the Queensborough Bridge. I looked this up in the 1911 Bureau Farmers Report and there was a farmers market there that only allowed the farmers to sell as a retail market. He said when that market opened, he would come across on the ferry. And that he was the first farmer on the bridge ever. I had this confirmed in an article on the 100th Anniversary of the bridge in the New York Times. I thought it was an interesting story that we were coming back to that origin, to that place, where the first market opened.

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Where did the farmers come from for the Greenmarket?
Bob went to the county agents and cooperative extension agents in NJ and NY because they already had a list of farmers with farm stands and pick-your-own and things like that. These were farmers who were used to retailing. But they were very suspicious about coming in. Ocean County, NJ is just across the harbor—not one farmer from Ocean County was interested in coming. One made the comment, “Yeah we’re going drive our trucks home with empty pockets.”

They thought that somehow the mafia would control things. And that was a real fear because the waterfront was controlled by the mafia and they controlled everyone with a truck. They held people up, and took money from them—New York was a crime city. That was mainly in the 40s and 50s, and we were far from that time, but there was still suspicion about New York.

So it took some heavy convincing. What did he ultimately do?
Bob spent time on the phone reaching out to them. So that summer, we opened three markets—59th Street first. We handled publicity and got responses from three major TV channels. They wanted to cover the market—it would appear at the end of the major news. The news was bad back in the 70s and this was the “good news” at the end of the show. People were calling City Hall asking where the farmers market was, but City Hall knew nothing about it! It took time to educate the city that we were working there.

How was the Union Square Farmers Market formed?
We were asked if we would come down to Union Square; they were trying to revive the area. They had prepared a plan for Union Square that showed a tennis court where the market is, and I said, “Change your plan; take the tennis court out and have a farmers market,” which they did. And they also took charge in getting the permits that we need.

What was the area like?
Oh, this was a BAD area, all the stores were closed, and they were trying to use us as a mechanism to turn the area around. And so when we started, it was a dismal area. And people didn’t want to shop there.

How many farmers were you able to convince to showcase at Union Square?
We had at least 12 farmers, and grew to 18. We had 9 on each side on 59th Street. It was Saturdays only to start and didn’t go to the end of the day, but we had around 2,000-foot traffic. The farmers did well.

Did you go back to your original farmers?
I think in general, the farmers from 59th Street did both locations. Some of them are still around and can probably tell you—S & SO Produce Farm. Not only the same farmers came down but when we broadened Union Square to additional days—we went from Saturday to Wednesday and then we later added a Friday and a Monday—the same farmers kept on coming in and no other farm could gain access to the Monday markets. So we said Monday is only for new farmers. We had a lot of organic growers who couldn’t get into the other markets or didn’t know about them.

What were the rules of the farmers market—if you had any to start?
We were in the process of developing rules. The first day we opened at 59th Street, one farmer came in with toys, and another came in with bananas. I asked the guy, “What’s up with the toys?” He said, “Well, they were up in the attic, so I thought I’d bring them down.” So we nixed things outside of produce to start. Then the other rule became: you had to grow your own, but could buy 25% locally. That rule I think still holds. We started with fruits and vegetables, and then we started to move into dairy products, eggs, butter, and meat.

How were you advertising in the city?
My children worked with me in the Greenmarket and we made t-shirts in the first year. Signage was important. We tried a banner across 2nd Avenue where 59th Street location was, and we had it very high, but a big boom truck ripped it down, so we gave up on that. We got permission to put up signs on the poles.

What food issue do you want to see put back on the political agenda?
I would like to see all the stores sell food directly from the farmers.

So all local all the time?
I want to see the Greenmarket go out of business because all the stores go local.

What’s a good day at the farmers market?
Here [in Union Square] $3,000 or more. People who shop in the market often don’t shop for price (even though we might be cheaper). First of all, people shop from their favorite farmers. Also, they like the choices. We have 50 varieties of lettuce! You can’t find that in the supermarket.

What’s your local farmers market?
Abingdon Square Farmers Market. Usually on Saturday we go there first and get some of the heavy stuff, and then come here to Union Square. I need to get the dairy products here, the milk and things. Flatbreads we can get here.

What is your biggest #foodfail?
That’s funny. The one that failed also succeeded. Chocolate soufflé. The first one I made was perfect. The second one I made collapsed. I don’t know what I did wrong, but still ate it. The other thing I failed at was cooking roast beef for Colette Rossant, an acclaimed food writer and critic. And it failed when she came—I didn’t realize I put in a frozen piece of meat. So after two hours, when it was supposed to be done, it was still hard! I forgot to thaw it out the day before.

Any great restaurants you particularly like in the city?
One restaurant just opened a block from my house called Bespoke Kitchen. Judith, my wife, introduced me as the founder of the Greenmarket and the chef and team were so excited to talk about food. When the bill came out it said, $0.00, and the food was just magnificent. We have gone back, and they came with a huge amount of food. I took enough food home for five more meals. Another restaurant we love to go to is the restaurant in the Jane Hotel—Cafe Gitane. Seeing the sunset come through the windows over the Hudson… very beautiful. And they are very nice people. They do Moroccan cuisine there which is really good.

What are some good food tips?
One little thing I’ll do is use beet juice to cook carrots because it deepens the orange of the carrots. It’s fun. With greens, I use apples, raisins and nuts sometimes. One thing I particularly love to do are omelets. I beat the whites up separately and then add the yolk to it. I like to use a lot of ingredients.

How are you involved with the Greenmarket today?
As a customer!

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: EDIE FEINSTEIN

April 29, 2016

 

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Edie Feinstein (@EdieBKFW) is the Community and Marketing Manager at Brooklyn FoodWorks. As a native New Yorker, Brooklyn is familiar territory, but running a kitchen that houses over 50 food startups is entirely new! We’ve gotten to know Edie and Brooklyn FoodWorks through various events Foodstand has hosted in her space, including Foodstand Spotlight, and most recently our first Food Book & Film Club. Hopefully you’ll join us at our next event and meet Edie in person.

 

For those just getting to know you, how would you describe Brooklyn FoodWorks?
Brooklyn FoodWorks simplifies food entrepreneurship. Through comprehensive educational events and training, a diverse roster of industry experts and access to a state of the art, commercial kitchen facility, Brooklyn FoodWorks provides culinary entrepreneurs with affordable, turn-key solutions to accelerate their business growth.

What are some of the principles that guide your business?
We operate a 10,000 square foot facility with very few walls, so we are working really hard on building a community based on trust (no stolen ingredients!), and shared learning. We have 50+ companies in various stages of business that have so much knowledge to share with one another (where to print labels, which stores to approach, etc).

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I had an adventurous palate from day one. During my second grade graduation speech, I mentioned that my favorite foods were artichokes and hearts of palm.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
I am trying really hard to cut down on added sugar. I have a red licorice, which makes this challenging, but I really do want to cut back.

What inspired you to open your business?
We responded to a Request For Proposal put out by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and won the bid! We were interested in this project because we know that there are so many great food businesses springing up in Brooklyn, and recognized the severe lack of shared kitchen space for them to produce out of. We see this as a huge opportunity, and are so happy for the 50+ businesses that we’ve been able to bring on board to date.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Mandatory nutrition education programs in schools! Kids need to learn about this from a young age. Most med schools don’t even include courses on nutrition! Crazy.

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Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? and where?
Julia Child at her home in Paris!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn FoodWorks?
The most rewarding aspect is when I see our members out in the real world—members busting their butts at Smorgasburg each weekend, and #BKFW made products on the shelves in grocery stores around town. Seeing their success makes it all worth it!

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Study the nutrition label before you purchase/eat!

What has been your hardest moment in relation to your business?
Construction was delayed for a few months beyond the expected opening date. This was super tough because we had members already on board who were waiting and waiting. This was a good lesson in setting realistic expectations!

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Traveling the world. I have incredible wanderlust, and would love to continue to explore various cultures and all of the wonderful food that is out there.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
Sriracha on top of everything! Tahini. Soy sauce. Sundried tomatoes. Miso. Lots of flavor bombs!

Your good food wish?
My good food wish is that nobody goes to sleep hungry at night.

BONUS: Favorite recipe.
Short Ribs!

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: ANASTASIA COLE PLAKIAS

April 22, 2016

anastasia_cole_plakias_farm_on_the_roof_brooklyn_grange_behind_the_plate_foodstand

Anastasia Cole Plakias, Co-Founder of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farms (@brooklyngrange) and author of The Farm on the Roof, lives and breathes urban, sustainable farming. She’s the ultimate inspiration for Earth Day! What was once a dream is now the world’s largest rooftop soil farm, and her book tells the story.

Join us Monday, April 25th at 6pm at Brooklyn FoodWorks to meet Anastasia in person at Foodstand’s Food Book & Film Club. Anastasia will present a short reading from The Farm on the Roof before answering your questions. We will also feature a short film screening of Brooklyn Farmer—the night will revolve around what it means to run a small food business in New York, with a special emphasis on maintaining one’s values as business grows. Be sure to use promo code GRANGE at checkout for $5 off. Here’s Anastasia to whet your palate.

 

For those just getting to know you, how would you describe Brooklyn Grange?
Brooklyn Grange is a triple bottom line rooftop farming business. We grow over 50,000 lbs of organically-cultivated produce per year on two rooftops spanning 2.5 acres. Brooklyn Grange also hosts events from educational farming workshops, to product launches, and weddings; and provides urban farming and green roof consulting and installation services to clients worldwide. We also partner with numerous non-profit organizations throughout New York to promote healthy and strong local communities.

Are there any personal beliefs that you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
If anything, the farm’s mission has made its way into my every day life! I really don’t waste anything anymore. I see how hard our farmers work to grow the beautiful food we harvest, so when I bring it home, I use every last bit of it. After taking the leaves off a sprig of thyme, I’ll save the stem and stick it in a pot along with other scraps for veggie stock. What I don’t eat, I compost. It’s not unusual to see me bicycling along the East River greenway to the farm in the morning with a bunch of dead flowers and some watermelon rinds overflowing from the compost bin in my basket.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
Every summer, I make my mom’s Pasta alla Cecche recipe and it brings me back to squishing just-blanched, farm fresh tomatoes between my fingers as a kid—the sweet-tart fragrance mingling with the spicy perfume of fresh basil and pungent raw garlic in a big bowl on the counter of our tiny galley kitchen. I am forever grateful to my parents for raising me with a reverence for quality ingredients and a passion for preparing them.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go: What do you make or where do you buy it?
I’m a native New Yorker, so a good slice of pizza will always hit the spot. It’s in my DNA. I love throwing handfuls of fresh basil, arugula, hot chilis, and thick slices of ripe tomato from the farm on a piping hot piece of cheese pizza. Nothing like it in the world.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
My partner and I have decided to start bringing our own food containers with us when we go out to eat in case we need to bring leftovers home! We’re tired of recycling take-out boxes. It’s just too much packaging.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn Grange?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn Grange is the community that has come together around the farm. Our team is made up of the most incredible individuals, and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new from one of my colleagues. And it’s not just the Brooklyn Grange team that inspires me—the network of organizations with whom we partner to engage a wider segment of the community has become essential to our company culture. When I see City Growers, our sister non-profit organization, bringing a group of NYC public school youth to the roof, I cannot help but harken back to my days as a NYC public school student, and I’m so glad that these kids have an opportunity to experience the world of possibility just above their sight-lines. And they’re not the only ones—Refugee Immigrant Fund, which brings asylum-seekers to our farm for training and community-building, has introduced us to some of the most incredible individuals I’ve ever met who have really changed the way I think about my daily life. I don’t take things for granted as I once did. To that end, I should admit that the second most rewarding aspect of Brooklyn Grange are those moments I find myself alone on the farm. Maybe I’m working late and duck out of the office to harvest a few things for dinner before the sun sets—the rest of the city is a million miles away. The birds are swooping into the cucumber vines to snatch up beetles, or are happily pecking away at the face of a sunflower, and a row of baby mustard greens catches the last light in a dazzling shimmer. It’s magic, and in those moments I feel like the luckiest lady on earth.

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Your new book The Farm on the Roof tells about entrepreneurship, community, and growing a sustainable business. What inspired you to write it?
I feel strongly that when you innovate—when you start a project as unprecedented as ours—you are obligated to a certain level of transparency, and to share the lessons you’ve learned with the wider world. To that end, our policy at Brooklyn Grange is that we answer every single message we receive, and doing so has meant spending many, many hours at a computer or on the phone, having conversations with academic researchers, fellow farmers, policy makers, journalists, architects and designers, and the merely curious. It occurred to us that organizing all those conversations in one place might be useful to folks. I also personally really want to make a case for small businesses!

What was your biggest challenge writing the book?
It was just a really challenging process through and through. Balancing my other duties with a rigorous writing schedule wasn’t always easy. At the time, Brooklyn Grange’s offices were just a tiny little room that the whole staff shared (we’ve since moved into much more spacious digs) so I mostly wrote from home, or the coffee shops of northern Greenpoint, near my apartment. Staying connected to the subject matter—the farm—while being so removed from it was difficult at times.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I know, right?! Thank you for pointing that out. It’s truly incredible that our candidates dedicate so much time to discussing healthcare and climate change but none on food and farming, by which the former are directly affected. There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to food, so it’s tough to even know where to begin, but I would almost certainly ask that they create a plan to move our farming systems towards greater independence from fossil fuels and corn-based foods.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I wish we’d eat fewer processed, packaged foods. When we eat real food, we eat less of it because it’s more expensive but also more nutritious and fills you up faster. And when we buy meat at the butcher or cheese at the cheesemonger, it should be wrapped in paper instead of sitting in a styrofoam boat or individually wrapped in plastic sheets which take energy to produce and never decompose. But we can’t ask people to pay more for food when healthcare is so expensive, and we can’t expect parents working multiple jobs and making a minimum wage that isn’t livable to spend time preparing and cooking whole foods when they get home at the end of a twelve hour day. So we have our work cut out for us before we can start making demands of our citizenry.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
I’d invite Earl Butz, the Agriculture Secretary under Nixon and Ford who’s “get big or get out” model for America’s farmers was largely responsible for monocultures and the current corn-dominant diet that has lead to obesity and illness in so much of this country. I would like to meet him in one of the corn, soy, and cattle farming communities of America devoid of any place to buy fresh foods, and challenge him to source and cook us dinner.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I would likely pursue a political career. I’m a pretty passionate advocate for that in which I believe strongly, and I think I can be pretty convincing.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
There’s always a bin in my fridge collecting clippings and scraps from the food I prep: garlic and onion skins, ginger peels, carrot and fennel trimmings, old celery stalks. When the bin fills up, I toss everything with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and peppercorns, and place it on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven till it starts to fill the kitchen with its aroma, anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. Then I scrape the whole mess into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for 30-45 minutes till I’ve got a stock. If I don’t need it right away, I freeze it in ice cube trays or tupperware to use later on in soups, risotto, or to cook grains like rye berries, einkorn, farro, or couscous.

How do you define good food?
I think good food is an extremely subjective concept. Trying to create a universal definition for it has gotten us into a lot of trouble: that’s how we’ve ended up with fad diets and snake oil supplements that often cause more anxiety and body image issues than health and well-being. But generally speaking, good food doesn’t cause harm to the people or ecosystem that produces it, and consuming it is both enjoyable and nourishing.

You’re not new to writing, having written for magazines in the past. How did writing your book differ from your previous experiences?
That’s a great question! In a lot of ways, the experiences were more alike than different. For example, The Farm on the Roof is less of an account of my own personal experiences as a co-founder, than it is the story—written primarily in first person plural—of an organization. Just as magazines have certain tones they like to strike with their readers, so too does Brooklyn Grange have a distinct voice and message of its own. And while I’ve definitely contributed to that voice and message as a co-founder and operator over the last six years, there were certain moments over the years that I undoubtedly experienced quite differently from my teammates. So, much like writing in the tone of a magazine, I tried to find the voice of Brooklyn Grange.

The best part about being in the food industry?
Being able to talk, think, write about, and play with food all the time!

Your good food wish?
I wish that access to clean, healthy, fair food was a right rather than a privilege.

BONUS: Favorite recipe.
Pasta all Cecche (pronounced in my house as “Pasta alla Kiki!”)

3 lbs large, red, ripe or slightly overripe tomatoes (about 6-8)
1 box high quality spaghetti, or the pasta of your choice!
3-4 cloves garlic
1 big bunch basil leaves
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
Pinch(es) chili flakes (optional)
Hard cheese for grating, such as Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it liberally. How much salt? Well, as they say in Italy, that water should be “salty as the sea!”

When the water is boiling and salted, add the tomatoes and boil about 30 seconds, until the skins begin to peel back from the flesh. Use a wire mesh skimmer to gently lift the tomatoes out of the water and into a colander to drain. Cover the pot of water and bring down to a simmer.

While the tomatoes are cooling, set out a large ceramic or wood bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and use the side of a knife to smash them. Rub all over the inside of the bowl, then throw the whole cloves in and add the olive oil. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and add those as well. If you are using chili flakes, throw those into the bowl too.

Bring the pot of water back to a full boil, and add your pasta, stirring. I like to set a timer for the lower cook time suggested on the package. It is very important that the pasta be al dente (a bit toothsome) because it will absorb some of the tomato water.

While the pasta is cooking, peel the tomatoes and use your hands to break them up into the bowl with the other ingredients, removing the core, or any hard bits around the stem, as you go. When the pasta is done, use tongs (or the wire mesh skimmer, if using a piece pasta) to lift it from the boiling water onto the tomatoes, bringing a bit of the pasta water with it. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, steaming, before mixing it into the tomato-oil sauce. Let come to room temperature and serve garnished with grated cheese, and if you’re feeling super decadent, a piece of bread for fare la scarpetta!

Behind the Plate From the Team

THE TOP 10 WAYS TO BE A GOOD EATER

April 19, 2016
Photo @diginn

Photo @diginn

One of our Behind The Plate questions that we ask interviewees is “If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?” It comes down to this—know your food, as awareness is a crucial element of eating well. Cook. Eat more plants and less animals. And don’t eat too much of anything. Here are ten of our favorite answers.

  1. Sanjay Rawal – Care about who is responsible for your food—whether it’s a farmworker, a restaurant worker or your mom!
  2. Palak Patel (@palaknyc) – Reduce their meat consumption! Even if it means replacing a single meat meal with a vegetarian option. That’s a start.
  3. Simran Sethi – Stop supersizing everything. Let’s recognize how precious food is and stop wasting 40 percent of it (here in the U.S.).
  4. Audrey Snowe (@unconventionalbaker) – Just encouraging the understanding of where your food comes from, how it has been raised/developed/handled, and using your money as a vote to help sustainable enterprise/farmers.
  5. Noni Vaughn-Pollard (@darkchocolatepeanutbutter) – I agree with Michael Pollan, that we as a society need to get back into the kitchen. There’s something magical and exciting about creating nourishment for your body with only a few simple ingredients. Whenever I cook my food, I don’t feel stress or guilt. It’s hard not to feel stress or guilt when food isn’t made by you and becomes a mystery.
  6. Emily Van Raay (@modelsforwellness) – Know where your meat comes from.
  7. Jill de Jong – To eat more whole foods!
  8. Emily Summerlin (@etsummer) – I want more people to realize that a plate doesn’t need meat to be a complete, substantial meal. That mentality is so frustrating to me. I think people are getting better about it, but I can’t tell you how many times I get the question “what do you eat?” when I say I’m a vegetarian. There are so many foods out there that don’t come from animals that are full of protein and are nourishing and filling.
  9. Matthew Preston (@diginn) – Moderation! You don’t necessarily have to cut anything out, just reduce your consumption of it to achieve a good balance.
  10. Matthew Kenney – Eat one plant-based meal a day.
Behind the Plate From the Team

DEAR MR(S). PRESIDENT

April 19, 2016

One of our favorite Behind The Plate questions that we ask interviewees is “If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?” What we learned is that food policy is key to the health and wellbeing of our country. From protecting the land and the workers, to keeping big business and empty calories in check—we want change, and the government can help.

  1. Jeremy Kranowitz (@SustainableAmerica) – We should change food subsidies to encourage healthy, nutritious calories and by taxing cheap calories. It has been said that obesity is the face of hunger because cheap calories are high in sugar, salt, and fat. We should still make those calories available to those that want them, but they should be harder to obtain and more expensive to buy than fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains.
  2. Emily Summerlin (@etsummer) – I would ask the future President to consider the soil! 2015 was the International Year of Soils and a lot of great things happened around that, but I want that momentum to keep going. Not only does healthy soil produce nutritious and delicious food, but it also sequesters carbon! It’s one of the keys to reducing our climate impact and it is very worth taking care of, not only for the future of farming but for the future of the the entire planet.
  3. Rebecca Sparks – At present there is a movement in the government to limit access to SNAP benefits by making it a block grant where states can make decisions of eligibility and access. This is a crime. Every American resident should be guaranteed the right to food.
  4. Matthew Preston (@diginn) – Land access and ownership. The first barrier for young people interested in the farming industry is access to land.
  5. Sanjay Rawal – About 20 million Americans work in the food sector, many of whom barely make ends meet. Without their service we have no food security. Same goes for the 3 or 4 million undocumented workers who are in the food sector (farmworkers, meatpacking, distribution, dairy, etc). Without job security and dignity much less a non-draconian immigration policy, our food system will absolutely disintegrate. I am shocked and appalled that the issue of equity in our food system isn’t being discussed in even the most basic way.
  6. Palak Patel (@palaknyc) – Addressing the increasing role that corporations have on our food system. We must understand where our food comes from. Right now, we’re headed toward a future where decisions about our food are decided in closed boardrooms by executives putting profits before people.
  7. Jill de Jong – I would ask the president to demand that companies take the chemicals OUT of our food. No colorants, preservatives or additives. That would make a huge difference.
  8. Simran Sethi – There should be a lot more scrutiny around the Trans-Pacific Partnership and implications for domestic farmers, preservation of heirloom seeds and transparency around what consumers know about their food sources.
  9. Jessica Sennett (@cheesegrotto) – What concerns me the most is farm workers’ rights and agricultural practices. Limited water resources are a present day reality in California. We have to change our practices and not let a few large food corporations and buyers determine the method and quality of our farming. They control the whole industry and subject farm workers and owners to endless cycles of debt and dependence. The framework that exists does not take into consideration resource depletion.
  10. Massimo LoBuglio – I would love for a lot of things to be addressed, but to pick one… How about an environmental impact statement included on nutrition labels! Data about the carbon pollution associated with food choices.
Behind the Plate From the Team

EXPERTS’ EPIC FOOD FAILS—IT’S NOT JUST YOU.

April 19, 2016
Photo @jfdouble

Photo @jfdouble

One of our favorite Behind The Plate questions that we ask interviewees is “What was your biggest #foodfail?” We’re all human, and even the best chefs have disastrous kitchen moments. Here are ten of our favorite answers.

  1. Audrey Snowe (@unconventionalbaker) – Broccoli cheesecake. Worst idea ever! Don’t judge! I try lots of crazy things—sky is the limit—and I often land on winners that become “cult classics” on the web. But this one was clearly out of range. When I made it at first it was absolutely delicious—tasted nothing like broccoli at all (in case you’re wondering). Just a beautiful pale green cheesecake. I left it in the freezer for a week amidst all my other frozen cakes, and when I re-tasted it later it tasted absolutely horrible. Like broccoli gone horribly wrong with sugar and roses on top.
  2. Noni Vaughn-Pollard (@darkchocolatepeanutbutter) – Homemade injera, never again.
  3. Emily Summerlin (@etsummer) – Ridiculously enough I’ve done this more than once. I make a smoothie and upon the first sip realize that I didn’t rinse the soap out of the blender well enough beforehand. No thanks to soapy smoothies.
  4. Jessica Sennett (@cheesegrotto) – My biggest #foodfail was a persimmon tart. This was before I knew how to pick persimmons that wouldn’t be cloying and drying in the mouth. (If you have tasted an underripe persimmon, you know what I mean.) I tried to cook the tart anyway, and it really wasn’t edible.
  5. Emily Van Raay (@modelsforwellness) – I have food fails all the time. I’m not an expert in the kitchen but I love making new dishes and tend to bite off far more than I can chew… Roasting acorn squash is something that I can NEVER seem to get right! I end up leaving it in for far too long or taking it out way too early and can never get it off the skin. It’s probably one of the easiest things to make. Help!
  6. Matthew Kenney – One of the first times I served raw cuisine to a group I spent a lot of time preparing our zucchini lasagna in sheet pans ahead of time. I had never served this at a large event before, and the extra moisture turned the lasagna to mush. I had to serve a group of my peers this horrible dish and was mortified. I never plated this in advance again!
  7. Jill de Jong – Cauliflower crust pizza. It drove me crazy; I was trying so many different things but I have not been able to master it and have given up!
  8. Palak Patel (@palaknyc) – Generally baking. But my biggest fool fail happened in Paris while I was attempting to make meringues for a French-Indian pop-up dinner. Meringues have a reputation for being easy to make, but that night things got surprisingly complicated for a dish containing just two ingredients! I calculated the conversions incorrectly, plus using a French oven made my meringues lifeless and flat. Needless to say, I proceeded to crumble them and presented the dessert as “deconstructed”.
  9. Margaret Gifford (@MargaretG) – My biggest food fail was the split pea soup I tried to prepare for my stepdad’s birthday. I didn’t know you had to soak the peas.
  10. Jennifer Emilson (@JenniferEmilson) – I made fish tacos. The tortillas were made with amaranth flour. They were thick, chewy, not a texture my hubby liked at all. And I didn’t marinate the cabbage long enough. All in all, too raw a meal. He said they didn’t deserve to be called fish tacos!
Behind the Plate From the Team

WHAT IS GOOD FOOD? THE TOP 10

April 19, 2016

One of our favorite Behind The Plate questions that we ask interviewees is “How do you define good food?” What we’ve learned is that while good food means something different to each of us, the underlying theme is you can’t have good food without people. Some answers focus more on flavor and what good food brings to the eater, others on process, and others even on the source—who was involved along the way. Here are ten of our favorite answers.

  1. Amanda Fuller (@RootedNY) – I’ll borrow Carlo Petrini’s definition—good food needs both taste (to be delicious to us personally) and knowledge (to tell a cultural and historical story).
  2. Audrey Snowe (@unconventionalbaker) – Easy, wholesome, fresh, vibrant, nourishing, and flavorful are all words that come to mind. And anything from my garden 🙂
  3. Ben Flanner (@brooklyngrange) – Good food utilizes and emphasizes the natural flavors of the ingredients, without preservatives.
  4. Sanjay Rawal – I don’t care if something is organic or sustainable if the people that picked, grew, manufactured or served the food aren’t treated and paid well. Too many people care too much about what goes into their bodies at the direct expense of caring about those responsible for creating that food. Should we eat organic? Sure. But organic doesn’t mean workers were treated well—there is zero correlation. Same goes for local, natural, everything that gets foodies excited. The food movement has left the worker behind. We need to fix that.
  5. Noni Vaughn-Pollard (@darkchocolatepeanutbutter) – I believe good food is any food that gives me pleasure. Whether it’s a fresh hot doughnut or a kale salad, I like food to be simple and delicious.
  6. Julie Qiu (@inahalfshell) – Good food creates value for every stakeholder: the eater, the producer, the chef, purveyor, and environment.
  7. Palak Patel (@palaknyc) – Good food is simple, but packed with flavor. To me good food also creates connections, and it’s how I show love. I grew up in a large Indian family where daily meals were the center of our day. Having grown up with Indian spices and bold ingredients, I enjoy incorporating these ideas into everyday cooking to create delectable, healthy dishes that deliver big flavors.
  8. Omar Rada (@omar) – Olive oil + garlic + salt + pepper + almost anything.
  9. Simran Sethi – Food that has been grown and prepared by people who have been treated well and paid a fair wage, coming from land that has been sustainably managed. And cooked by people who are also treated equitably and love what they do. Delicious food isn’t delicious if people or natural resources are harmed in the process.
  10. Beth Reed (@simplywithout) – Food that is thought about, cared for and loved. It is literally from the moment the seed begins to grow that the food journey starts. Everyone involved in the journey has an impact on the food and can help to make the end result good food. One of my favorite things to do is, not just cook and eat good food, but think about it. Thinking about and planning meals makes the flavors and ingredients come to life—as they take on their own place on the chopping board, pan or plate, they all become important parts of the bigger picture. To me, good food is food that nourishes you, invokes conversation and of course tastes good.