Contributing Author: Katherine Walla
Food Tank will co-host two Summits along the West Coast these coming weeks in partnership with Mother Jones. On May 29th in San Francisco and on June 5th in Los Angeles, food and agriculture experts and leaders will discuss access, affordability and equity in the food system.
These events will feature over a dozen of today’s top leaders in food and agriculture—including chefs, restaurateurs, writers, farmers and activists changing the food that is on plates around the world. The sessions will be moderated by journalists from Eater Los Angeles, Mother Jones, the San Francisco Chronicle, LA Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times. The evenings are made possible by the Tides Foundation, Beneficial State Bank Foundation, Bi-Rite, Driscoll’s, Niman Ranch and Facebook’s Community Leadership Program.
Tickets to these two exciting events in San Francisco and Los Angeles are still available for purchase. General admission tickets include entry into the event, as well as post-event nibbles and networking. After the discussion, tune into the podcast “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to catch any speakers you might have missed—or revisit any speakers you might have loved!
Get ready for next week by checking out the headline speakers sharing their hopes for an accessible, affordable, and equitable food system in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the coming weeks!
1. Gustavo Arellano (Los Angeles)
Arellano is the author behind Orange County: A Personal History and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America and a feature writer for the Los Angeles Times. Arellano’s previous award-winning column “¡Ask a Mexican!” in OC Weekly answered any and all questions about America’s spiciest and largest minority. Arellano’s awards range from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Best Columnist to the Impacto Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
2. Rocky Dawuni (Los Angeles)
Dawuni is a Grammy nominated Afro Roots artist and humanitarian activist whose music straddles between styles from Africa, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Named one of Africa’s Top 10 global stars by CNN, the artist has played in prestigious venues internationally and was nominated for a Grammy for best album for the 2016 awards. As an activist, Dawuni’s experiences encompass cultural diplomacy with Product (RED), UNICEF, and more. In 2012, Dawuni began serving as the Tourism and Cultural Ambassador of Ghana, World Ambassador for the Musicians Union of Ghana, and UN Global Ambassador for the UN Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
3. Fran Drescher (Los Angeles)
Previously leading the hit series The Nanny as both an actress and executive producer, Drescher co-starred in many films and wrote her first book, Enter Whining, about entering show business. After her battle with uterine cancer, she wrote her second book—Cancer Schmancer—became an outspoken healthcare advocate in Washington, D.C., and launched the Cancer Schmancer Movement to encourage women to take control of their bodies and learn the early symptoms for cancer, empowering them in the health care system.
4. Ron Finley (Los Angeles)
Most widely known as the Gangsta Gardener, Finley started a “horti-Cultural” revolution by transforming the parkway in front of his South Central Los Angeles home into an edible oasis in 2010. Finley’s efforts sought to build the community and change lives by bringing healthy food to an area in which there was none. Now working on The Ron Finley Project, Finley speaks at conferences and schools to change how the world eats and to empower youth. Finley is also on the Curatorial Team of the Destination Crenshaw project—an outdoor art and cultural experience celebrating Black Los Angeles— and one of the national artists for the Public Art Challenge Fertile Ground Project by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
5. Leigh Gaymon-Jones (San Francisco)
Gaymon-Jones is the Operations Manager for the Castanea Fellowship, a multi-sector collaborative that creates opportunities for transformative leadership to thrive working for a racially just food system. Gaymon-Jones is also a movement artist, listener, gardener, and smiler.
6. Tanya Holland (San Francisco)
Holland is the chef/owner of the Brown Sugar Kitchen restaurants—recipient of the Michelin Bib Gourmand award—and author of Brown Sugar Kitchen and New Soul Cooking cookbooks. Holland competed on the fifteenth season of Top Chef on Bravo; was the host/soul food expert on Food Network’s Melting Pot; and has appeared on television and news segments nationwide. Holland has served as co-president of Les Dames d’Escoffier Bay Area chapter, and was honored by the City of Oakland when June 5, 2012 was declared “Tanya Holland Day.” Internationally, Holland served as a Culinary Diplomat for the U.S. State Department in Kazakhstan and Mexico and taught classes in France for gastronomic travelers.
7. Mona Holmes (Los Angeles)
Holmes is a southern California-based food writer and reporter for Eater Los Angeles. The former National Public Radio producer worked in the restaurant industry for eight years and has written about food since 2007. Holmes has been featured on ABC Radio, Elle Magazine, Venus Magazine, and Upscale Magazine and previously led “Cook This… Get Laid,” a food blog designed to help people enhance their romantic lives through food.
8. Justin Phillips (San Francisco)
Phillips has been with the San Francisco Chronicle since November 2016 as a food writer. In previous roles, Phillips served as the City, Industry, and Gaming reporter for the American Press in Lake Charles, Louisiana, extensively covering the local energy sector. As a columnist for the American Press, Phillips won a Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Media Editors award for a weekly food column. Phillips has also worked in the newsrooms of the Contra Costa Times, the Tri Valley Herald, and the Oakland Tribune.
9. Tom Philpott (Los Angeles)
Philpott is the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones, where he writes the “Food for Thought” blog online, and contributes features and editorials to the bi-monthly print magazine. In 2004, Philpott co-founded Maverick Farms, a small organic vegetable farm and center for sustainable food education in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, and Philpott serves on the advisory board. Philpott has worked as a professional journalist for over 20 years and is currently based in Austin, Texas.
10. Chris Sayer (Los Angeles)
Sayer is the manager of Petty Ranch, which uses sustainable practices to produce lemons, avocados, figs, apples, apricots, pears and persimmons. As the fifth generation of the family to manage the ranch, Sayer uses beneficial insects, micro-sprinkler irrigation, and soil-building practices. Sayer is also a contributing writer for Edible Ojai & Ventura County and UC Food Observer. On Petty Ranch, Sayer hosts a Farm Lab program for third graders as an adviser to Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture and serves on the boards of local community and agricultural organizations.
11. Michele Stueven (Los Angeles)
Stueven is the Food Editor at LA Weekly, producing daily stories, videos and photography online and in print about food. Stueven has also written for Time Inc., People.com, and People Weekly. Previously as a personal chef, caterer, and food blogger in Los Angeles, Stueven catered many events, including an evening with the Women Like Us Foundation helping raise funds to fight sex trafficking and the opening of the Safe Place For Youth Facility in Venice.
12. Alice Waters (San Francisco)
Waters is a chef, author, and food activist, and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California. In 2015 Waters received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama, proving that eating is a political act and that the table is a powerful means to social justice and positive change. Waters is the author of 15 books, including New York Times bestsellers The Art of Simple Food I & II, and the memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook.
13. Paul Willis (San Francisco)
Willis is a fifth generation hog farmer who owned and operated the Willis Free Range Pig Farm for over 41 years and founded the Niman Ranch Pork Company. Partnering with Bill Niman, Willis established the Niman Ranch Pork Company in 1998, which has since grown into a network of over 500 independent family farmers raising hogs humanely and sustainably. Besides pioneering the sustainable pork industry, Willis also co-founded Food Democracy Now and currently serves on the board for Global Animal Partnership.