Friday Faves No. 181

Our favorite finds from the front lines of food.

What would it take for hipsters to embrace junk food? Would it be as simple as a repackaging exercise? From Nerds to Slim Jims, artist Dan Meth reimagines some of America's favorites. (Bored Panda

In keeping wth the American food theme, the good, the bad, and the popular, social media platform Pinterest gives valuable insights into what people across the country are planning to cook. Food is the largest category on Pinterest, clocking in with over 15 billion pins. And, over the past year there has been a 24% increase of "Pinners" who engage with food. Check out this amazing geographic breakdown of the most popular foods on Pinterest across the country.  From survival bread in Alaska to banana pudding in North Carolina, it's all at your finger tips.(Buisness.Pinterest)

Visionary chef Dan Barber is taking on food waste with a laudable "everything old is new again" approach. (Guardian) 

There is a beef over the definition of "milk".  This question is coming up for debate in congress thanks to the Dairy Pride Act.  If passed, non-dairy "milk" producers would no longer be able to call their dairy alternative soy, almond, flax, cashew, etc. products "milk".   And, yes, this was presented by a senator and representative from Wisconsin and Vermont respectively. (Business Insider)

What is Paella? That's not just a flip question, its incredibly serious and a very difficult question. Enjoy this amazing story about the creation of wikipaella, an effort for paella lovers and chefs to actually define what paella is. It is a "way for a community of rice lovers to preserve a fundamental component of their culinary heritage." (Guardian)


Friday Faves No. 165

our favorite finds from the front lines of food

image via Washington Post

image via Washington Post

Huge, once-hated fish now seen as weapon against Asian carp
"Persecuted by anglers and deprived of places to spawn, the alligator gar (above) — with a head that resembles an alligator and two rows of needlelike teeth — survived primarily in southern states in the tributaries of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico after being declared extinct in several states farther north. To many, it was a freak, a “trash fish” that threatened sportfish, something to be exterminated."(Washington Post)

Where the girls (chefs) are: Why are so many women chefs drawn to the coast of Maine? “While male chefs tend to follow the money and status, women chefs are in search of appreciative, knowledgeable audiences, a sense of community, and a more balanced life outside the kitchen.” (Boston Globe)

Meal kits an eating less meat continue. Restaurants enter the meal kit space. Operators who have been following the growth of delivered meal kits are now experimenting with their own. "And while more than 100 meal kit delivery companies are attempting to differentiate themselves by offering niche categories such as vegan, paleo and even Southern food, restaurant operators are beginning to see the wisdom of offering a grab-n-go meal kit or quick delivery kit that’s prepared by local chefs who consumers know." (Restaurant Hospitality)

Grill Concepts launches new Laurel Point seafood-focused restaurant with Millennial appeal.  “We saw a void in the marketplace...Few restaurants are going in this direction and doing it well, though people are eating less meat.” (Restaurant Concepts)

A super-cute new video for Chipotle. Guess it take a lot of cute to make people forget about e. coli.

A futurist on food: Farming on the moon, lab-grown meat, and old fashioned boring stuff like greater transparency. (Washington Post)

A Space-Age Food Product Cultivated by the Incas "What did the Incas and NASA have in common? They both faced the problem of long journeys through harsh, forbidding territory" (New York Times)

The Curious Appeal of ‘Bad’ Food In the age of Instagram-perfect dishes, why are there so many sites and blogs dedicated to culinary disasters? "Feeding yourself or others is a success, an act of love, even when the meal resembles unappetizing brown mush."  (Atlantic)

Bycatch is no small matter. A shameful death on the part of we humans for an animal that had lived so long: 400-year-old Greenland shark is the oldest vertebrate animal (Guardian)

Friday Faves No. 121

our favorite finds from the front lines of food

Bug Power: Cricket Flour and power bars (above): "With Millennials particularly adventurous when it comes to food and the protein trend still on the upswing, these products have a decent chance of gaining traction." (JW Intelligence)

I'm not a chef, but I play one on TV: why stars are lining up to play chefs? Bradley Cooper is in London playing a chef in a movie that follows a spate of documentaries starring some of gastronomy’s most esteemed avatars  (Guardian) 

Go ahead and blame your parents: Scientists say DNA determines coffee consumption.  (PBS Newshour)

A new restaurant concept allows New Yorkers to sample the fare of talented chefs from all over the country. (New York Times)

Jancis Robinson Swears by Milk Thistle Supplements, Says Mexican Wine Is the Future (Food & Wine)

Is Scotch Whisky the new liquid gold? A rare whisky index is compiling data.  (Telgraph)

If you're trying to be the happiest place on Earth, a little bubbly never hurts. Disney get's its own branded Champagne. (Drinks Business)

Sing Along Snacks: Foodie Songs

It's never too early or too late for a snack, so crank up that volume on your computer.

The word foodie — it's been around for a while now, but seems to be gaining in irritation and folly. The Simpsons' excellent Food Blog Rap is a great send-up, with lyrics like:

"I’ll Rhyme about radicchio, criticize Colicchio
Every pub is gastro, and all my beef carpaccio"

A pithier example, although NSFW, is the new song Foodie by rappers Jelly Donut, Ashkon, and Daveed Diggs chronicling the perils of the New York foodie scene. Yes, that is an image of a talking Cronut in the sky from the video. (Don't say we didn't warn you...)

Friday Faves No. 108

our favorite finds from the front lines of food

World Cup food.png

Since we're all a-buzz with competition and national pride, why not delve in to the World Cup of Food "In the spirit of the World Cup, we offer you a lively and completely subjective global conversation about the merits of the national cuisine of each of the 32 countries competing in Brazil. Can England’s Yorkshire pudding stay the course against pasta al pomodoro? Will Red Red from Ghana emerge victorious over America’s barbeque (North Carolina division)?"
 (AlJazeera America)

National Geographic explores the "Blue Revolution" of progressive aquaculture. Congratulations to Gustavo Valdez on being included — and with some great photos of his shrimp pods. (National Geographic)

Fun with tools: custom carved rolling pins that decorate whole sheets of dough at once (Laughing Squid)

The 'Tastemakers' Who Shape Our Food Trends: From cronuts to kale chips to gluten-free, a look at food crazes and the people who create them. A radio discussion featuring guest (and cronut creator) Dominique Ansel.  (On Point)

Looks like leatherback turtles have favorite hang-out spots to eat. NOAA Scientists recently discovered that most adult leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean return to the same feeding areas between nesting seasons. (NOAA)

Yuck: Australian Honey "Sting" busts importers for passing off sugar syrup as real honey. (The Courier)

Champagne that was salvaged from a shipwreck in the Baltic prompted Veuve Clicquot to create  a "Cellar in the Sea" to monitor aging. (Wine Searcher)

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 79

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food

  • We're so excited about this retail-focused photo shoot (above) we did for a client, that we had to share. The full gallery is on our site.
  • Sure, it's a bit gossipy, but Eater's Airing of Grievances, Parts One and Two is hard to resist. New York food writers dish on both the new and established, from David Chang, to Le Bernardin and Cronuts. Preach. (Eater)
  • Food columnist Mark Bittman braved locavore wrath by stepping out to say that Not All Industrial Food Is Evil, like canned tomatoes, for example. "The issue is paying enough for food so that everything involved in producing it — land, water, energy and labor — is treated well. And since sustainability is a journey, progress is essential. It would be foolish to assert that we’re anywhere near the destination, but there is progress — even in those areas appropriately called 'industrial.'” (New York Times)
  • It's hard to pass up a headline like Sommelier turns water into cash. The 43-page water tasting menu at Ray's and Stark Bar located in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art sounds a bit more like performance art than an epicurean experience, but it wouldn't be the fist wacky idea from LA (see avocado beer). And then there are great phrases, like how one comes to "drink water professionally" and the new branded water Beverly Hills 90H20. (CNN)

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 73

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Nursery food is good for you, or at least the nostalgia it inspires. "Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer." Bring on the mac & cheese and a fluffernutter. (New York Times)

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 69

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • "When words just aren't enough, say it with bacon..." urges this jewelry-spoof commercial (above). "All you have to do is listen, and bacon will show you the way."
  • Good news: the young folk don't want to eat anonymous junk. The Millenials are spending differently and restaurant chains are trying to woo the younger generation. "Between the proliferation of artisanal food trucks and items like cupcakes made of Valrhona and Callebaut chocolates and topped with a fondant daisy for $2.75 at Georgetown Cupcake, or Fresh Direct’s offering of “heritage” pork from the Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York, millennials tend to spend their dining dollars sparingly and in a more calculated way."

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 60

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food

  • And just to prove that it doesn't have to be that way, The New Pork Gospel is a loving profile by Barry Estabrook of Russ Kremer, the pig farmer that inspired Chipotle's commercial in praise of small pork producers.
  • The Beastie Boys' Mike D Runs a Free Food Truck in the Rockaway neighborhood of New York City, helping out residents hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy.
  • For your weekend reading pleasure, we've found a new favorite food journal find in London-based The Gourmand. And it doesn't hurt that their logo looks a bit like the Pork Fairy.
  • We will leave you with a few words of wisdom from Chef Thomas Keller on why it's desire and not passion that make the best cooks. "It’s not about passion. Passion is something that we tend to overemphasize, that we certainly place too much importance on. Passion ebbs and flows. To me, it’s about desire. If you have constant, unwavering desire to be a cook, then you’ll be a great cook...(more)"

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 51

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Truffle sex: "The black truffle has always been assumed to be a self-fertilizing fungus, but it's not..."

  • One of the biggest obstacles to restaurants going green is food waste — hard to track and hard to fix. LeanPath software is trying to help. "When cooks put food waste on the LeanPath scale, they identify it and why they're throwing it away — like overcooked meat or spoiled fish. The software then calculates what that food waste is worth. With that information, a kitchen can figure out how it needs to change, Shakman says. (Watch a demo of how it works here.)"
  • One way to combat food waste is the latest condiment trend: crumbs! Eleven Madison Park in New York City has elevated all the leftover seeds and salt that we all stick our finger into the bag to get into "everything bagel dust."


Chefs Collaborative Chef Summit- 2012 Seattle

My-o-my, how time flies.  It seems like yesterday that we were all in New Orleans eating and drinking our way though another delicous Chefs Collaborative Chef Summit.  Well, time waits for no one, so here we are back from another Summit.  

Seattle rolled out the red carpet, or rather an amazing blue sky, to host a wonderful conference.  I know everyone loved sampling the incredible bounty that chefs enjoy up in the Pacific Nowthwest.  Enjoy our little recap of the Chefs Collaborative Summit 2012- in Seattle.


Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 43

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food

  • A sense of whimsy decorates a bar called “Le Nid” (meaning the nest) in Nantes, France.
  • Food has always been part of diplomacy, but now American chefs are being tapped by the State Department as official culinary ambassadors. "The wide-ranging effort creates an American Chef Corps, a network of culinary leaders who could be deployed to promote U.S. cooking and agricultural products abroad."
  • Smithsonian magazine takes a visual tour through the history of the lunchbox, from 19th tins to mid-20th century classics, like the Partridge Family and Lost in Space.
  • There's nothing more mid-century than nuclear obsession. Cold War–Era Science Shows Beer Will Survive a Nuclear Apocalypse "In a world that had seen the potential of nuclear weaponry and that faced the threat of disaster as America and the U.S.S.R descended into the Cold War, a hierarchy developed around facts society might need to know about nuclear explosions. Number 32.2a on that list, apparently, was understanding 'The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages.' Specifically, beer. And soft drinks."
  • Urbanization Puts Farms In Africa's Cities At Risk "The survey — which is the first of its kind — looked at city farming in 31 countries, where more than half of Africa's urban population lives. The authors say that governments need to integrate urban farming into city planning, or else the cities may lose one of their best sources of food."


Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 34

 weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Some of our favorite images from Pinterest this week, above. Come on by.
  • "Smart aquaponics" in Oakland, California at Kijani Grows is using tech in new ways: "Gardens that can communicate for themselves using the internet can lead to exchanging of ideas in ways that were not possible before. I can test, for instance, whether the same tomato grows better in Oakland or the Sahara Desert given the same conditions. Then I can share the same information with farmers in Iceland and China.”
  • The New York Times OpEd Dirtying Up Our Diets argues that getting natural with microorganisms and unsanitized food might be just what the doctor ordered: "As we move deeper into a “postmodern” era of squeaky-clean food and hand sanitizers at every turn, we should probably hug our local farmers’ markets a little tighter. They may represent our only connection with some “old friends” we cannot afford to ignore."
  • The title might be inflammatory, but soem interesting points are raised in the recent Salon article Eating Local Hurts the Planet. How your food is produced really, really matters. Shipping is just the part of the food system that we can see. "Not surprisingly, it turns out that food miles can only be taken at face value in the case of identical items produced simultaneously in the exact same physical conditions but in different locations — in other words, if everything else is equal, which is obviously never the case in the real world."
  • Chef Marcus Samuelsson talks about his memoir Yes, Chef and his life in the kitchen on the radio show Fresh Air (audio link).

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 19

a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Chefs differ in their enthusiasm for Yelp and making everyone a critic. Sometimes it's not half bad: "It used to be that if you got a bad review in the New York Times, you had to close. It was like the theater. There was only one guy who decided everything. There are so many more people reviewing everything today. Nowadays, if you get a bad review in the Times, you can still make it.”

A Farmer’s Guide to Working with Chefs

this piece was originally published February 23 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research

Farmers and chefs have a lot in common. They both work long, often uncomfortable hours. They both suffer the whims of weather, from ruined crops to cancelled reservations, and they both depend on delivering a stellar product and pleasing others for their livelihood.

To make it in food — from the field to the kitchen — you need passion.  To make it in the food business, you need communication.

Communicate — Early & Often

No one knows your crops like you do, but for chefs to step-up and incorporate your product into their culinary rotation, they need as much lead time as possible to plan. No chef would be excited to see a mountain of fava beans show up unexpected on their doorstep….even if they were the absolute freshest and PERFECT!

Restaurants have a rhythm and, with a little lead time, they can make the proper staffing arrangements to tackle such a mountain of favas. In fact, given just a bit of lead-time, a chef can do all kinds of things that would highlight your harvest. (A special fava menu for the bounty you just laid upon the kitchen’s doorstep!) But they need to know what to expect as far in advance as possible.

As a farmer, if you can work to sync your harvest with the rhythm and pace of the restaurant, it will make for a much easier working relationship. Work the schedule backwards. Start by asking what the peak volume days are for the restaurant, then how much time they need to prepare whatever it is you are bringing. This will give you a better understanding of what it will take for you to deliver, and what it will take for the chef to do something great with your product.

Share Your Knowledge

Farmers are sitting on a ton of information about the food they grow. This is inspiring information for chefs! To show off your work to best effect in the dining room, chefs need to know more of what you know. The best way to transmit this knowledge to the chef, and then for the chef to pass it to the kitchen staff and wait staff and consumers, is to put it in writing.  Nothing fancy is required. An organized email or a printed one-pager that’s delivered with your products will do the trick. The description from the seed catalog and a few lines about how they were grown would be fantastic.

Beyond heirloom products, farmers often have heirloom knowledge. Chefs don’t like waste, and as they begin working with local and artisan production, they increasingly need to know how to pickle, preserve, butcher, and more. This is to keep the bounty working for them through the peak and into the menu long enough to actually use the complete harvest. Chefs are sensitive to what goes into raising food, and using everything to the fullest is how they honor and respect the production. That said, many cooks today lack the “old-school” education needed to properly execute these traditional preserving or preparation techniques. If there is something in your family’s past, or some bits of knowledge that have been passed on to you as a farmer or artisan food producer, ask the chef if they are interested in trying out your methods. It might bring a new dimension to your relationship.  The more ways they have to use your product, the more they can buy from you.

Chefs may want more than they know. They might want a common varietal because they don’t know what else is out there. Chefs have become accustomed to standard products because they’ve been cut off from the actual farmer or fisherman. Ideally, as the connections between farmers and chefs are solidified, they can become partners in experimentation, and partners in building strong, diverse food communities.

Set Expectations 

Farmer hours and chef hours are very different. Come up with a mutually acceptable time to talk. This will make communicating much easier and more efficient for you both.

Provide the chef with a volume estimate of what they can expect. You know your production inside and out, but don’t assume the chef intrinsically understands or can estimate how much he will receive.  Remember, a restaurant kitchen is a very busy place with many moving parts. Even if told two weeks in advance how many cases of your special heirloom vegetables they can expect, chances are good that the chef will have forgotten the details of the case count. A gentle reminder will keep the communication flowing and eliminate surprises.

The Benefits of Understanding

When the connection between producer and chef is reestablished, great things happen. Take a look at Chef Richard Garcia at the 606 Congress, located in the Boston Waterfront Renaissance. It’s a big hotel, and he serves a lot of fish. After establishing a local relationship with a few fishermen, Chef Garcia has been able to move beyond stating exactly which fish is going to be on the menu. The fisherman will call or text him from the boat about what they’re catching. One day it could be haddock, the next day it might be sea robin. His waiters are all up to speed on the program and share the information willingly with the customers. His customers know that it will be the freshest fish that happened to land that day, and it will be from one of his local fishermen. The chef gets variety and the freshest fish available. The fishermen get a market for everything that lands in their net.

By keeping each other in the communications loop, they manage each other’s expectations and needs for a mutually beneficial business relationship and a more sustainable local food system.


About Alisha & Polly’s company: Polish Partnerships

Polish is a branding and communications company for the new gastroconomy. By creating strong partnerships with food and beverage producers, hospitality groups and industry innovators, we go the extra distance, transforming hopes, dreams and expectations into tangible, sustainable and polished realities.

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 14

 a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Old-school kitchen frugality is elevated to a trend as chefs turn scraps into stunning second acts. “It helps in the cost of running a business and it’s respect for the product. That speaks louder than just the food.”
  • Going right to the source, chefs and farmers join forces, briding the kitchen-field divide and resulting in better ingredients. "There are so many parallels, business-wise, between a farm and restaurant operations that often people on both sides don't see."

Go Forth, and Deliver – Freelance Foraging and Connecting the Dots

this piece was originally published January 12 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research.

Chef/Owner Rick Hackett of Bocanova in Oakland, CalifThis week we were inspired by a conversation about local sourcing with Chef/Owner Rick Hackett of Bocanova in Oakland, Calif.  Rick is dedicated to buying local for his restaurant. “For the world to survive, we must become more and more local, which means more seasonality,” he explains.  “The more you keep things within four hours or 200 miles, the more you keep it in the community, and that you can feel good about.”

For a chef, finding farmers and ranchers with great, responsibly produced local products is getting easier all the time. But can you get what you want delivered? And what if you’re off the beaten path, or your needs aren’t consistent? We’ve gotten to a place where the mind (and the wallet) is willing, but the logistics are weak.

We hear over and over that direct sales are best for farmers, but it’s not always such a great deal. There’s nothing free about trucking goods around and sitting in traffic, or spending your “day off” standing at a market. Middlemen have gotten a bad reputation from unfairly squeezing both sides of the equation, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with paying someone for the valuable services of transportation and coordination.

“I think a lot of farms would benefit from somebody who would take over the distribution angle. One of the problems is that the more time the farmer is out delivering to me, the less time he is on the farm,” says Rick.

New, alternative delivery models are happening. Polyface Farm in Virginia has created Metropolitan Buying Clubs. Drop-off sites within four hours of the farm, often at a home, are put on a weekly schedule. Orders can vary each week, but to qualify for drop-off, each site must maintain a $1,000 weekly sales average to make the arrangement a good investment for the farm. The cost of delivery to the Buying Club consumers is a flat 28 cents per pound, which covers the cost of the truck, the driver, and the administrative time.

A similar model to the buying clubs, but without a set schedule, are food “hives” in France. La Ruche Qui Dit Oui (literally, ‘the hive that says “yes”’) is a business that helps set up “hives” or local businesses that serve as hubs for locally produced food. Once the “hive” has been created and meets local hygiene codes, farmers connect with members of the hive. There are no ongoing subscriptions, and the members come to collect their goods at the central “hive” or hub. The coordination is all done online. Thresholds are set by the producers, such as 100 kg of apples at a set price. When enough members have committed to buying apples, and the 100 kg threshold is met, then the transaction is completed. The farmer brings the apples to the hub, and members come to collect their orders.

Chef Rick is working on a solution for his own restaurant. It’s a drop box system where other farmers can “drop” their produce off at a walk-in located at one of his suppliers, All Star Farms. Then the farmer, Marty Jacobson, would bring it all down to him at Bocanova. Each farm would invoice Bocanova, and the invoices would be delivered with the produce. The problem is getting all the parts coordinated so it actually can work on a schedule.

Not just a boost for buyers and sellers, finding new ways to move products within urban-suburban-rural food sheds helps us reshape a product’s carbon footprint. Any way possible to spread the carbon load minimizes the footprint of any given product or person. It doesn’t make sense for one worker, in one car, to travel upwards of 20, 50 or 75 miles from an outlying exurb or rural area, then to have a delivery vehicle make a dedicated run to and from that same region to the same restaurant. Know someone working in the city that would like to make a little extra cash? Have restaurant wait staff that live out of town and would like to take on a little foraging?  Maybe produce is the next great carpool partner.

Adam Lamoreaux of Linden St. Brewery, preparing a deliveryFor those searching for how they can make a positive impact for the good food movement, we’ve got a job for you. Freelance forager, farm to kitchen runner — call it what you want, but we need more ways to connect growers to buyers. It may not sound very romantic, but it’s a missing link in the farm to table chain.

Chef Rick points out that foraging could have other benefits. “It could be an entry level position for somebody who wants to get on the farm, because you spend a little bit of time on the farm and then a couple of days for deliveries. That way you get to learn that connection between the farm and the restaurateur. And every chef is looking for something different. You get to learn the idiosyncrasies of what cooks are all about.”

Have you set up alternative delivery models for your farm or business? Tell us about it.

Chef Rick couldn’t resist a shout-out to a few of his favorite sources. At Bocanova, he uses pork from Prather Ranch, eggs from Rolling Oaks up in the Sierra foothills, oysters from Drakes Bay Oyster Company (which is run by the Lunny’s, who also have very nice tasting grass-fed beef cattle that they raise on Lunny Farms), and fresh beer delivered daily by bicycle from Linden Street Brewery in Oakland.


Submit Your Question(s) for Next Week!

You can submit your questions via emailfacebook or Twitter.


About Alisha & Polly’s company: Polish Partnerships

Polish is a branding and communications company for the new gastroconomy. By creating strong partnerships with food and beverage producers, hospitality groups and industry innovators, we go the extra distance, transforming hopes, dreams and expectations into tangible, sustainable and polished realities.

Making a Stand-Out Market Stand

this piece was originally published December 22 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research.

Welcome to the second installment of Alisha Lumea and Polly Legendre’s advice column for sustainability-minded food entrepreneurs who are seeking answers to questions about product branding, marketing, development and more.

This week’s questions come from Ryan in San Diego, CA.


How can a direct to consumer seller at a farmers market make their products stand out more for consumers and/or attract more restaurant buyers?


At a farmers market there’s a lot of repetition of goods. If cucumbers are in season, you probably have a lot of them — and so does the stall next to you, and the stall after that.  To sell your cucumbers, you can compete on price, or you can compete on style (otherwise known as perceived value). You can build your style and a better user experience with two basics principles: communication and cultivating relationships.

An easy way to communicate with your customers is better signage, including simple tasting notes. A favorite root vegetable vendor at Union Square Market in New York City sells a dozen varietals of potatoes, each with it’s own tasting note and suggested cooking method. The notes are minimal, like: “Peruvian heirloom, great mashed,” but they help encourage people to try something new and sample multiple products.

Signage, though, doesn’t substitute for conversation. Rather, it helps jump-start questions. Not everyone chats easily with strangers, and a little bit of information can be an icebreaker.  Guaranteed, if you hang a sign that says “ask me about my expert knowledge of hot peppers” you’ll have more conversations about peppers than ever before.

The in-person connection with customers at the market is great, and you can further that bond with an email newsletter and Facebook. More frequent communication with customers allows you to stay front-of-mind, so on market day they come right to you. A newsletter is good because it allows you to capture the customer’s information at the moment when they’re thinking of you instead of relying on them to remember to “like” your page once their back at their computers. And Facebook makes it easy for people to share the information with their friends and introduce you to new audiences.

Updates needn’t (and shouldn’t) be long and involved. Let people know what’s going on at the farm and especially what’s coming into season. In cold climates, foodies wait for the first asparagus like kids wait for Christmas. If you have a favorite way of preparing something, share it here. The more time they spend thinking about you growing their food, the more invested they are in buying from you.

Use your display to draw connections between your farm and products and what else is going on in the good food movement and within your community. Restaurant customers are powerful endorsements, both for consumers and other chefs. If your products are called out by name at a restaurant, have a copy of the menu laminated and at the stand and called out as, for example: “best melons, as seen on the menu at Bistro X.”

If you would like a restaurant to call out your products by name, talk to the chef and offer to display their menu and call out the connection from your stall. The foodies at the farmers market are the same foodies they want dining in their restaurant. Cross promoting helps everyone.

Once you have chef customers, cultivate those relationships. Stay in touch about what’s coming into season. Talk to your chefs about what they’re cooking and what they use. Ask them if there’s anything they wish they could source locally but can’t find.

If you don’t have any customers yet, use a donation to jumpstart some buzz. How about giving apples for snack to your local kids sports team, getting a picture of the kids with apples, and making a sign that says: “Your Farms’ Cortlands — the official apple of the soccer team.” A sign like that will get you attention and goodwill.

Submit Your Question(s) for Next Week!

You can submit your questions via emailfacebook or Twitter.


About Alisha & Polly’s company: Polish Partnerships

Polish is a branding and communications company for the new gastroconomy. By creating strong partnerships with food and beverage producers, hospitality groups and industry innovators, we go the extra distance, transforming hopes, dreams and expectations into tangible, sustainable and polished realities.

Value-added Products & Partnerships

this piece was originally published December 15 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research.

Welcome to Alisha Lumea and Polly Legendre’s inaugural advice column for sustainability-minded food entrepreneurs who are seeking answers to questions about product branding, marketing, development and more.

This week’s questions come from John at Backyard Chicken Run in Chicago, Illinois


1) are there products, like say a locally made root beer, or organic stone ground flour, that seem to be succeeding more often than not, in lots of locations around the country?

2) what do your instincts tell you would be the product or products that should have the highest likelihood of success, if there is such a category you can speak to?


Value-added dairy products are a category we’ve seen great examples of all around the country. There are so many delicious, recognizable and well-loved things made with milk and cream — yogurt, crème fraiche, ice cream, and of course, cheese.

Grains fight an uphill battle. The commodity version is inexpensive, and they often live at the bottom of the priority list. Many of the most sustainability-dedicated chefs and consumers start at the top with proteins. They make the best choices they can afford in that category, and work their way back down through dairy, produce and last to pantry staples.  If you’re a bakery, you might be able to stretch your budget to use local honey and some local dairy, but you can’t double the price of flour or sugar and stay in business.

Yogurt, ice cream and cheese have the added advantage of a naturally extended shelf life that gives some breathing room to production and ordering schedules. (In contrast, the minute you pull herbs out of the ground or a fish out of the water, they start losing freshness and value.) From the sales side, they’re versatile and offer a lot of possible customers, fitting into grocery stores, small gourmet shops and within foodservice from neighborhood restaurants to white tablecloth.

From our perspective, the best part of value added dairy products is that they’re a natural for the most exciting opportunities in food — co-productions between farmers and artisans.

Running a farm and selling a branded consumer product are different businesses. There’s a huge difference between making a little jam to sell from your farm stand and making enough jam to sell in shops. Many farmers don’t have the time, inclination or right skills to diversify into these new businesses, although they need new outlets for their raw materials. The good news is they don’t have to do it all. There are loads of aspiring artisans and chefs who have the culinary and business skills to launch these new product ventures and need reliable access to raw materials and a farm to table story.

But real partnership means both sides have to think beyond just the sale in front of them. They have to think about using their best assets to create something sustainable together. (There’s nothing new about this kind of cooperation. Our food system has just gotten out of practice.)

The city chef might have access to buyers and industry contacts, but no storage and no truck. A farm might be able to lend storage capacity and rent out part of their trucks that are already transporting goods to the city, but they may be too far out to constantly promote the product to its best advantage.

Back in October, farmer and good food advocate Joel Salatin addressed the small and passionate crowd at the Chefs Collaborative Summit in New Orleans. This was an audience of food professionals, so he cut to the chase and talked about the real business issues facing farmers — distribution, cost, and seasonal fluctuation.

One example he gave was the huge differential in pastured egg production by season. Customers want the same number of eggs each week, but chickens lay like crazy in late spring and not so much in winter. To keep up with your orders in winter, you need to keep a number of chickens that will have you drowning in eggs when they’re laying at their peak.

Joel Salatin put out the call: what we need are entrepreneurs to come buy all those spring and summer eggs from farmers and make frozen quiche to sell all year. (The same seasonal issues are true at farms of all kinds. Produce farms and orchards have seasonal excess and often a wealth of “seconds” that are perfect for preserving but unsellable fresh. Livestock farmers have cuts that need culinary transformation to appeal to the market.)

Now, we’re the kind of people who actually make quiche at home, but if there was a good tasting frozen option with a good story behind it, we would always have a few in the freezer. We like canning too, but we can’t put up enough to live off of all year. We always want to support the best in local and sustainable food, but we have late work nights and family chaos like the rest of America. Sometimes dinner has to be a low-maintenance affair.

This is what the market has lots of room for: products that transform raw materials that satisfy high standards of taste, ethical production, and a relatable story into something that fills a need in modern life.


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Polish Addresses Tokyo Creative Cities Conference

On November 23, Polly Legendre represented Polish Partnerships at the Creative City and Global Economy Conference in Tokyo as part of a panel on Innovative Society Empowered by Art, Design and Imagination.

Below is the text of her speech.

Gastronomy is the study of food and culture.  Economy is what keeps us all is business – we need to tap into both.

My name is Polly Legendre and I am first and foremost, a chef de cuisine. I decided to become a chef at the age of 12, and moved to France on the day of my 17th birthday.

I became the first American graduate of the Ecole Superior de Cuisine Francaise and continued working in top Parisian restaurants for nine years.  I have owned two catering companies and was the culinary director and director of vetting for CleanFish, a sustainable seafood company in California.

Now, I am the co-founder of Polish.  Polish helps participants across all food systems find their story and polish it up for the marketplace.

I have always been intrigued by how culinary arts, innovations, and technology converge to what I call the New Gastroconomy.

Gathering around the table to share ideas has been an essential, organizing principle for creative exchange from the ancient world to the modern coffeehouse.  But for those with a culinary vision, finding the economic means to express their art can prove to be difficult. 

This is what we do at Polish: find creative use of social media and online word of mouth marketing that make it possible for the chef to find an audience and for the audience to find the chef.  This person-to-person connection is redefining what an authentic food experience is — largely supported by smartly-leveraged, fast-paced and accessible story telling.

Now, inside the food movement, successful leveraging of technology — both its innovation and application — is allowing the creation of a new Gastroconomy, breaking down barriers to bring the culture of food to the people.

Access to new systems are proving to be far less capital intensive and more nimble, therefore making it possible for the freshest ideas to emerge — and for people to build community around them.

The movement is cooperative, participatory, fast-paced and centered around connection — connecting people to each other and connecting people to their food. In this day in age, social media has indeed created a sort of virtual eco-system.

Staring out with artisan producers:

In the past, small producers needed to find their audience. The smaller you are, and the more specialized, the harder it was.

Now, artisans who are too small or too experimental for the established distribution system can sell their wares online and connect face to face with customers at temporary food marketplaces, such as pop-ups that are organized online and “advertised” through social media.

For example, Christopher Lee, former chef of Eccolo in Berkeley, CA, now runs a pop-up throughout the year where different artisans are featured and actually “pre-sell” their goods.  They use the web to take orders and receive payment up front. This reduces the risk of coming to the city and not selling anything.

When people can’t meet, QR codes attached to the products can take shoppers to a video or message about what they’re buying and who made it. Leveraging this technology is allowing artisan stories to have a lasting effect and creating long term loyal customers who feel connected- both of which are essential steps to effective brand building.

Another example of the QR application is to provide an accountability tool or auditing system. Fishermen off the New England Coast are recording their catch statistics for each trip. This information, in the form of a code, follows the fish all the way to the chefs. In some cases chefs are then passing it on to their client, so the diners themselves can trace the fish all the way back to the boat. So, in this instance, you can see the application of the QR code has created a traceability system for foods instead of just a marketing tool.

As we all know, customers and diners participate more in both time and money when they feel they are part of the process or have knowledge others do not. By posting videos, chefs give customers a privileged view. Much like chef's tables were leveraged in the past, this viewpoint goes a long way to cementing that bond between your operation and your customer.

Another example, the New York restaurant Bell, Book & Candle, uses a system of rooftop hydroponic gardening that you would not “see” as a passive diner,  but instead you can watch videos and it comes to life. We watch chefs shop at the markets and follow them. 

Customers feel that they know something more and will more likely share it. Farmers can show how soil is prepared and the harvest; chefs can share the behind the scenes frenzy without having someone underfoot.  It’s a type of food systems voyeurism, and customers like the opportunity to see into a world they dont have physical access to.

This new paradigm and nimble approach is also supporting the start-up side of business.  Now a young chef who doesn’t have access to the necessary funding to open has options. He or she can start a pop-up restaurant concept, rent or borrow space and bring a spontaneous, performance aspect to the restaurant form. 

In some cities, culinary projects have cropped up where, thanks to virtual story telling, young chefs can “guest chef” for a night or two, thus trying their menus, ideas and testing the ground.  Leveraging this online following and access to community members who are willing to dine on the cutting edge gives young chefs, culinary artists, immediate feedback and a potential client base. Amateurs who think they might want to try their hand at being a chef or restaurant owner are using this same access.

Or they can take their craft literally on the road with a food truck, or in this case a taco bike.

Food trucks are hot across the US right now and frankly this would not be the case if there weren’t a fast paced network like twitter. Twitter has emerged as a one-stop shop for the “I want what I want when I want it” crowd.

Cities are getting into the scene, organizing food truck events like the Off the Grid event in San Francisco.

Virtual maps and accessible databases via smart phones are allowing the public to follow certain chefs and operations.

It can also be a way of getting an active message out about certain issues. For example, the Slapfish truck in Southern California is using the truck to not only serve up incredible seafood dishes, but this classically trained chef is also a huge sustainable seafood advocate and uses the truck and menu to profile seafood choices, showing diners and peers alike that delicious and sustainable can go hand in hand.

Brick and mortar restaurants are also getting into this type of activity. They have seen the value of tapping into a generally younger crowd, and are looking at this technology leverage in order to keep their image “cool” as well as for some very practical economic purposes.  Having a mobile food unit is allowing test markets to determine how the establishment will be received in new neighborhoods, not to mention, there have been instances when the building itself was to be shut down for renovations and the cash flow was still on thanks to the mobile approach.

There is also an environmental aspect to this, as you can now bring a restaurant of sorts to people instead of people coming to one restaurant — one to many instead of many to one.

A recent example of this is Oregon based Burgerville.  They recently developed the Nomad supplementing their 39-store chain. This has helped them enter into twitter and social networking as they never had before. It’s a showcase on wheels.

Twitter is also being used as a live auction site. Fish wholesalers are letting chefs know that only a limited number of pounds of a fresh or exotic fish remain in his cooler. The first one to tweet their order gets it. Restaurants are interacting with guests- real time for reservations, complaints or issues that may crop up and use twitter to book events and last minute replacements for cancelled reservations.

Menu creations and seasonal variations are being tweeted to client followers as well as reviewers.  In fact, this type of technology moves so fast, it does seem to fit with the hyper kinetic activity most chefs engage in.

Interactive projects like crowd-sourced cookbooks and underground supper clubs are attracting local participants, supper clubs are now tapping into online communities to invite tourists to attend for a real and super-local dining experience.

This in-bound tourism and cross channel marketing is bringing together art, food and culture.  As co-founder of Polish, and as a chef, I am dedicated to new systems of urban food production that are bringing the farm to the people, along with a new sense of ownership that is transforming consumers into co producers.  Having a good product is not enough anymore. To participate in the Gastroconomy you need solid brand building, deliciously bringing together art, culture and technology innovations for vibrant commerce and resilient communities.