Distill Ventures is the first business accelerator in the distilled spirits industry. FamilyFarmed in 2014 created the Good Food Accelerator, first business accelerator in the United States focused specifically on food produced locally and sustainably. So we were delighted to attend a lecture at the Independent Spirits Expo by Gonzalo De La Pezuela, Distill Ventures’ North America Managing Director, that focused on the entrepreneur’s founder’s story. He made a strong case for how telling the story of how your business came about and what passions drive you help you make the connection with a customer base… or as he frequently described it, your “tribe.”
FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator (GFA) staged its annual Application Celebration and Networking Event at Chicago’s 1871 business incubator on Tuesday. It included a panel of four GFA graduates moderated by Scott Mandell, a program “supermentor” who founded hugely successful Enjoy Life Foods. And when Scott asked the alums about the biggest change in their businesses fostered by the Accelerator, the response by Mitch Wasserman of Full Belly Foods drew chuckles from the full-house audience.
Ashley Rossi is the founder of OrgaNums, a Chicago-area company that uses a cold-pressed (High Pressure Pasteurized) process to create healthy, nutritious baby food from organic ingredients. Ashley’s business benefited from its participation in the Financing Fair at FamilyFarmed’s 2015 Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. In this contributed piece, she describes the challenges she has faced getting retail store placement for her brand in this new market segment.
“Farm to table” dining may have become commonplace on Chicago’s restaurant menus. But Chef Paul Virant was in the vanguard of the movement just 13 years when he opened Vie restaurant in the suburb of Western Springs. And he is all about giving back to the community. Within a recent three-day span, Paul did a cooking demo with the Gardeneers audience for schoolchildren in Englewood, then was the honoree for Angelic Organics Learning Center at their annual dinner.
The FamilyFarmed crew had been talking for a while about taking a Chicago Water Taxi cruise down to lunch in Chinatown, and we finally set a date. What would have been a fun day out in any case became a special occasion when the team was joined by Jenny Yang of Chicago’s Phoenix Bean Tofu — a fast-growing graduate of the first cohort of Fellows in FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator,
As part of its efforts to assist its small business associates, The Hatchery food business incubator held a pop-up market, sponsored by Groupon, at downtown Chicago’s Revival Food Hall on Saturday (June 17). So we dropped by to visit with a bunch of our food-making friends — and to purchase some of their delicious products, of course!
If the mezcal tasting event hosted Wednesday (June 7) by Rick and Deann Bayless proved anything, it is that their Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed love to party around Good Food and artisan beverages. The party — at the Frontera group’s Cruz Blanca on Restaurant Row in Chicago’s West Loop — was a sequel to the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, held April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago. That fundraiser produced (at latest tally) more than $140,000 in proceeds to be split evenly by Family Farmed and Frontera Farmer Foundation, to advance their efforts to help farmers and businesses build a better food system.
Stephanie Izard graduated from University of Michigan in 1998 uncertain about her career path, and her father encouraged her to give culinary school a try. Over the past 17 years, the Chicago and national food scenes have owed Stephanie’s dad their gratitude. Her restaurant Girl & The Goat earned her a James Beard Award in 2013, and she has expanded to her Little Goat Diner and Chinese-themed Duck Duck Goat. Stephanie is a chef-participant in Sunday’s Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser at The Art Institute of Chicago, and a lucky bidder in the event’s online silent auction will get to dine at each of her three restaurants.
or many years, Ming’s parents — both immigrants from China — owned, and his mother ran, a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, called Mandarin Kitchen. Ming worked there during his teen years and showed his obvious talent and passion for cooking. But… this is an ethnic food story with a twist: The reason Ming’s family settled in Dayton was because his father was an aerospace engineer who worked at the nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and Ming initially embarked to follow in his footsteps, earning a degree in mechanical engineering at Yale University. But cooking was never far from his mind, and he embarked on a career that led to his two successful Asian cuisine restaurants in the Boston area and a long career as a TV chef.
The folks attending the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser on April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago will be able to bid on some mind-boggling prizes, including a food field trip to Mexico with Chef Rick Bayless, whose 30 years of achievement is being celebrated at the event. But guess what? You can bid for all of those prizes too. That’s because the auction, already under way, is taking place online, and you can compete wherever you are. All you have to do is visit the auction portal, click the prizes your heart desires, and bid.
Mindy Gohr knew from childhood that she wanted to be a pastry chef. She left her family’s dairy farm in Wisconsin to attend the Cordon Bleu culinary school in Chicago, and it did not take long for her to get the big break that has been her career-maker: an internship working at Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Café for founder-owner Judy Contino, one of Chicago’s leading pastry chefs. And in 2015, when Contino decided to move into semi-retirement, Mindy became co-owner. She also will be participating in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for Chef Rick Bayless‘ Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
Many people who have worked in Chef Rick Bayless’ kitchen since he opened Frontera Grill 30 years ago have gone on to their own success as chefs and restaurateurs. But among those who have worked for Rick, few — if any — have benefited more than Anselmo Ramirez, chef-owner of Chicago’s popular Ixcateco Grill, where he combines the Mexican food knowledge he gained from his grandmother with the restaurant craft he learned while working for 13 years in Rick Bayless’ kitchens… starting as a 17-year-old dishwasher. Anselmo will participate in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser on April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago.
We often highlight the potential for Good Food businesses to revitalize economically challenged communities and improve the lives of those who live there. Few businesses combine both of those elements in one person as much as Chicago’s Westside Bee Boyz. Founder Thad Smith’s beekeeping and honey company is still quite small, but he has big dreams for the company. He views it as a platform for community and young entrepreneur development in North Lawndale and other troubled communities in Chicago.
The Good Food Trade Show & Policy Conference is coming up at Chicago’s UIC Forum on Friday, the middle day of FamilyFarmed’s three-day Good Food Festival & Conference. Here’s a quick tour of the top 5 reasons to attend on Friday.
FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival & Conference reflects the values of the Good Food movement: increasing access to food produced locally as possible using sustainable, humane and fair practices, to build a healthier, more sustainable and more economically dynamic food system. It also reflects the amazing diversity of this nation’s food and farm entrepreneurs, both demographically and in the types, styles and ethnic origins of food they produce.
Kefir is a probiotic fermented dairy drinkthat originated in Russia in the 19th century and only recently has developed a growing consumer market in the United States. The main catalyst for the rising interest in this product is Lifeway Kefir, started in 1986 by Soviet refugee Michael Smolyansky and today run by his children. Julie Smolyansky, the company’s CEO, writes here about the family’s gratitude to the United States; she will participate on a panel about Big Food’s Embrace of Good Food at FamilyFarmed’s Financing & Innovation Conference on March 16.
Chicago’s Pleasant House pubs is best known for its flaky, savory Royal Pies. Owners Art and Chelsea Jackson are Fellows in the current cohort of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator and will participate in our Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. Their restaurant, located just a mile away, will be open during the three-day Good Food Festival & Conference.
There are no guarantees for entrepreneurs launching new food ventures. But success can come amazingly fast when a food startup hits the sweet spot — or the sweet and savory spot in the case of Simple Mills, the Chicago-based company that produces a variety of nutrient-dense, grain-free baking mixes and crackers (and will be exhibiting at FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Trade Show and Good Food Festival.
“Good Food movement” and “Local Food movement” are virtually synonymous to a lot of people. Yet the rising tide of consumer demand for Good Food is prompting more and more retailers, wholesalers and chefs to think globally while they act locally. This issue will be examined by the “Does Good Food Need to Be Local” panel at FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference on March 16.
Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko own a farm bed & breakfast in Wisconsin, produce their own jarred products, and are the authors of several books including Homemade for Sale. They share their tips for product labeling that sells, and will be exhibiting at FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival on March 18.