Do you daydream about dropping everything and opening a restaurant? Have you always wondered what it would be like to start your own line of condiments? So many trailblazers in the food world actually started their careers in entirely different fields. How did these folks decide to hit the brakes, start over, and become inspiring the chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers and activists they are today? Hear their stories and learn how you too can fulfill your food dreams. Join cohosts Vallery Lomas and Ethan Frisch on Why Food?
If you made a leap of faith to work in the food industry and want to share your story, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abena Foli: POKS Spices
Join us for a conversation with Abena Foli, who is the founder and co-owner of POKS Spices. Abena was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa, where she lived until 2006 when she immigrated to the United States for her college education. Her passion for food comes from her farmer-father who taught her how to blend spices and to understand the culinary heritage of cooking authentic West African meals.
Abena’s food science background and 10 years of corporate food industry experience exposed her to the white space in the food retail environment for West African flavors and foods. Leveraging her background, she started POKS Spices in 2016, developing Spicy Seasonings based on the West African Holy Trinity of chile, ginger, and onion. The mission of POKS Spices is to introduce the American home cook to West African flavors, and they have been featured on Good Morning Texas, The Dallas Business Journal, and Cuisine Noir Magazine.
Reem Assil: Arab Street Food, California Style
Join us for a conversation with renowned chef and activist Reem Assil. Reem is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA, and owner of the nationally acclaimed Reem’s California in Oakland. The restaurant is Reem’s California Mission in San Francisco, inspired by Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them. Reem has garnered an array of top accolades in the culinary world, including back-to-back James Beard Semifinalist nods for Best Chef: West. She is a graduate of the competitive food business incubator program, La Cocina, business leadership program Centro Community Partners, and Oakland-based business accelerator program ICA: Fund Good Jobs. Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, building leadership in workers and residents to fight for living wages, affordable housing, and a voice in their jobs and their neighborhoods. Reem sits at the intersection of her three passions: food, community, and social justice. She uses food to invoke the central virtue of her Arab culture — hospitality — to build a strong, resilient, and connected community.
Ariana Tolka: Balkan Bites
Join us for a conversation with Ariana Tolka, CEO and co-founder of Balkan Bites. They specialize in comfort foods such as burek, a flaky, stuffed phyllo pie that is a daily staple in the Balkans and the Middle East. After years of working for marketing and non-profit organizations, she found her calling—to share and preserve Balkan culture with authentic family recipes that have been passed down through generations.
Bobbie Garbutt: 4th Generation Nutmeg Farmer
Join us for a conversation with Bobbie Garbutt, live from Grenada! A 4th generation cocoa and spice farmer in Grenada, Bobbie didn't envision her career in agriculture. Kicking off working life as a production assistant for a fashion label in London, her curiosity about food systems led her to jump ship and start her own catering company before the pandemic brought it to a grinding halt.
The extended time spent at home allowed her to rediscover the unique significance of her mother's family farm in the Caribbean. Now working in regenerative agricultural initiatives across East Africa and Grenada, she's on a mission to inspire a movement back to the land--through making farming prosperous by rewarding good growing.
Samah Dada: Dada Eats
Join us for a conversation with Samah Dada! Samah is a New York City-based recipe developer, food photographer, and blogger behind Dada Eats. Drawing from her Indian heritage and inspired by the foodscapes of London, California, and New York, she is the host of Cooking with Samah Dada on the Today show’s digital channel.
Margaret Nyamumbo: Kahawa 1893 Coffee
Join us for a conversation with Margaret Nyamumbo, founder of Kahawa 1893. Margaret is a third generation coffee farmer and grew up on a farm in Kenya before immigrating to the USA. After earning her MBA from Harvard, she went on to work on Wall Street when she rediscovered her passion for coffee. She founded Kahawa 1893 with a mission to close the gender gap in coffee. In Kenya, over 90% of labor in coffee comes from women, but they aren't fairly compensated because they don't own the land. Kahawa 1893 coffee is roasted and distributed from San Francisco and the brand recently launched in Trader Joe's as the first Black & woman-owned coffee brand to launch in the grocery chain.
Thank you 🙏🏼
Food is such a big part of my family and how we communicate. But beyond that listening to people passionate about their work and how it impacts others has been such a privilege and encouragement to hear. As an artist who likewise is in a challenging field to be in the midst of I’m inspired and encouraged by so many in the food industry that are looking to create good in this creative and challenging industry. Thank you.
Really interesting convos about the food world
Vallery and Ethan have great chemistry and ask the guests really good questions. Always an inspiring conversation!
Food Made Fascinating
Talented hosts and fascinating guests combined with engaging chat makes the Why Food? podcast a MUST listen! Even if you're not a foodie, you're sure to enjoy the more than interesting stories behind these phenomenal career changes. Thanks for putting out such a great show guys - keep up the great work!