Stories / Impact

Overheard at the JBF Food Conference (Day 1)

JBF Editors

October 17, 2016


From "making it work" with keynote speaker Tim Gunn to a reflection on the necessity of celebrity chefs, to a heated debate over the powers of novelty and tradition in food, the first day of the 2016 JBF Food Conference was packed with thoughtful discussions of the connections between trends and movements. Read on for some of our favorite soundbites from the day's panels.


1. "Less than 1 in 20 Americans grow anything that they eat. And what is the overwhelming reason behind that isn’t space, it’s knowledge. Why can’t we require that every high school graduate coming out of an American school have two or three units of agriculture?" —Paco Underhill, CEO and Founder, Envirosell; Author of Why We Buy, Call of the Mall, and What Women Want

2. "After the stock market crash of 2000 and the attacks of 9/11, both the economic conditions and the culture of consumption changed dramatically. Nurturing took on a different importance, more internally driven, and acts of intimacy like cooking became more appealing than acts of grandiosity like dressing up in designer fashion."— James Truman, Restaurateur/Co-Owner, Nix; Former Editorial Director, Condé Nast

3. "People are drawing connections across issues in ways that I have never seen before and could never have predicted. Today you can fill a small bookshelf with books about the connection between diet and climate change."—Anna Lappé, Author; Founder, Real Food Media; 2016 JBF Leadership Award Honoree

4. "Food has become ubiquitous as a means of journal-keeping on social media platforms."—James Truman, Restaurateur/Co-Owner, Nix; Former Editorial Director, Condé Nast

5. "I believe fashion could learn a lot from food, to be perfectly honest. To think about localized production, to think about localized markets, to stop thinking big box, and to become more specialized. The difficulty is the bottom line, and sustaining that. I think it’s challenging for both people in the food industry and the fashion industry, in terms of the creators. It’s a very challenging time for so many reasons, and just as I’m eager to see lots of alternates to the Macys and the Targets, I’m just as eager to see alternates to the big supermarkets, and I believe food is leading us better than fashion is."—Tim Gunn, Educator, Author, Fashion Therapist, Project Runway Mentor

6. "I don’t think aspirational and inspirational should be distinct from tactical."—Tim Gunn

7. "Trends are an expression of the will of the consumer and the will of the diner, and that carries a lot of weight. But there’s a downside to this, too. There’s sriracha in every pot, but the local flavor is being washed out. Something’s being lost in that moment."—David Sax, Journalist, Author of The Tastemakers

8. "Seasonality is at the heart of why we want novelty in food. Built into the way we eat is a fundamental affection, need, fascination with something new. Novelty is at the heart of all our cooking."—Bill Buford, Journalist, Author of Heat

9. "Titillations and trends are not a cuisine. They’re ideas, thoughts, they’re fun things. But whether they will establish themselves as a cuisine, only time will tell. My only argument here is to trust time. Time will tell you what your cuisine is."—Madhur Jaffrey, Actress, JBF Award–Winning Cookbook Author, Journalist

10. "Change can happen, movements can succeed, campaigns can drive to victory, strategies can work, and we can make the world better.”—Evan Wolfson, Former Founder/President, Freedom to Marry

11. "At the end of the day, people can talk about how virtuous something is, and how people should be doing it, but if consumers don’t put their dollars behind it, it won’t go anywhere."—David Sax

12. "Trend and transformation are not mutually exclusive."—Simran Sethi, Journalist, Author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate

13. "We call it the reverse princess and the pea scenario: a very small change at the top that goes directly to the workers at the bottom, can change people’s lives because their slice of the pie is so small."—Greg Asbed, Co-Founder, Coalition of Immokalee Workers; 2016 JBF Leadership Award Honoree

14. "Find the upstream problem. When you are defining the problem, ask why, and then ask why again, and then ask why again. Don’t solve the problem right in front of you, find out what’s really causing it."—Ashindi Maxton, Philanthropic Strategist

15. "This is not a confrontation movement. This is a happy and delicious movement."—Shen Tong, Managing Partner, FoodFutureCo

16. "Hunger is a political condition: we have the food, we have the resources, we have the brainpower, but we lack the political will."—Congressman Jim McGovern, U.S. Representative for the 2nd Congressional District of Massachusetts; 2016 JBF Leadership Award Honoree

17. "This isn’t just about food hijacking politics, it’s about politics hijacking food, and it’s always been that way."—Raj Patel, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin; 2016 JBF Leadership Award Honoree


Tune in to catch the panels and speakers on Day 2.


The James Beard Foundation would like to thank the following for their support of the JBF Food Conference:


Founder: GRACE Communications Foundation

Visionary: Blended Burger Project™

Innovators: Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute  |  Bon Appétit Management Company  |  Karen Karp & Partners  | Starbucks Reserve

Sustainers: Bonterra Organic Vineyards  |  fairlife  |  Good Housekeeping

Supporter: Natural Gourmet Institute

Media: Civil Eats  |  Edible Communities  |  foodtank