Today when you open a magazine or turn on your television you’re likely to see a chef. Chefs have crossed the threshold of mainstream pop culture and now are more than just cooks – they are role models, change agents and trusted authorities on what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Every day when a chef’s steps into their kitchen, they have the power to transform good ingredients into good food.
But what is good food? To me, an avowed foodie and food industry veteran, good food goes beyond just what’s on a diner’s plate and affects every link in our food supply chain. From the environment and animals to a restaurants staff and guests - as well as state, regional and national economies—good food is beneficial for every link in our food supply chain.
That leaves the question: how can you find good food? Today, eaters are faced with an overwhelming array of choices when determining where to dine. To navigate the proliferation of food choices, eaters rely on various ratings, lists and awards to point them in the right direction. However, these lists are based on opaque standards and subjective criteria that ultimately don’t help eaters.
So, what if we flipped the model? What if there was a new model based on objective standards and transparent criteria? A model that goes beyond the taste of food and puts chefs and restaurants in control? What might this new recognition and reward system look like?
In an attempt to flip the model and change the way we view and value food, I founded the Good Food Media Network a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating eaters by cultivating a conversation and community around the people and businesses changing the food system for good.
With this mission in mind, the Good Food Media Network produced and released the inaugural Good Food 100 Restaurants list, an annual strategic rating system that measures the impact of chefs and restaurants purchasing and sustainable business practices.
The list, compiled based on self-reported annual food purchasing data and independently verified by NSF Responsible Sourcing, included restaurants from every region of the country; representing five categories (fine dining, casual dining, fast casual, food service and catering).
Early in the development process, influential culinary trailblazers, including: Mike Anthony (Gramercy Tavern, Untitled, Union Square Hospitality Group), Rick Bayless (Frontera, Tortas by Frontera), Alex Seidel (Fruition, Mercantile & Provisions), Kelly Whitaker (Basta), Suzanne Goin (Lucques, A.O.C., Larder), Hugh Acheson (5&10), Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja), Jonathon Sawyer (Team Sawyer Restaurants), William Dissen (The Marketplace Restaurant), Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon, Butcher, Herbsaint, and Peche), Steven Satterfield (Miller Union), Paul Reilly (Beast + Bottle and Coperta), David LeFevre (Manhattan Beach Post, Fishing With Dynamite, and The Arthur J), Andrea Reusing (Lantern and The Durham), Renee Erickson (Walrus & Carpenter, The Whale Wins, Barnacle Bar, Bar Melusine, Bateau, General Porpoise) and Bill Telepan (Oceana) signed on to take the survey, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and good food systems.
Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
In total, 90 restaurants participated in the Good Food 100 inaugural survey—self-reporting their purchasing data from the previous year.
After being evaluated, the 90 participating restaurants were rated with two to six links—symbolizing links in the food chain—based on the percent of total food costs spent to support state, regional and national ‘good food’ producers and purveyors. Restaurants with six links represented the top cohort and reported the greatest percentage of good food purchases. The next cohort earned five rings and so on. 42 restaurants received six links.
Photo Courtesy of Hotel Milo Santa Barbara
To accompany and complement the inaugural list, I (the Good Food Media Network) in partnership with the Business Research Division (BRD) of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, used the data to produce an economic analysis measuring the participating restaurants’ food purchasing decisions on local, regional and national economies. The results were astounding.
The report found that the overall food purchases by the 90 participating Good Food 100 Restaurants totaled $94.8M in 2016, of which $68.1M were derived from good food purchases. To top it off, the $68.1M in good food purchases resulted in a $199M economic impact on the U.S.!
Regions that reported the highest percentage of good food purchases included the Far West region (90 percent) and the Mideast region (89 percent). Good food purchases within region were highest for the Mideast region (100 percent), Great Lakes region (99 percent), and the combined Southwest and Plains region (99 percent).
By segment, the Casual Dining restaurants reported the greatest total food purchases ($30.7M), and hence, had the greatest economic impact ($90.6M). This segment also reported the greatest level of good food purchases—$22.5M, which translated to $67.6M in total economic benefits.
These numbers are game-changing. They demonstrate the visionary power of all chefs and restaurants to fuel environmental and social change and drive economic growth. Think: if a small number of chefs have such a profound impact, just imagine the effect of hundreds or thousands across the country.
The sky is the limit for the Good Food Media Network. We hope that every restaurant, food truck, food supplier, etc. will annually take the Good Food 100 Restaurants survey. My personal goal is for the Good Food 100 logo to be a stamp of approval on menus and something that eater’s look for and must find when choosing where to dine. As transparency increasingly becomes the most important item on the menu, this—the Good Food 100—is the future.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.