We're excited to introduce Stephen Satterfield as Farm To Fork SF's brand new Head of Operations! Stephen is what we've been calling a Swiss Army knife of the food and beverage industry--a trained chef and sommelier, he's worked in urban farming, agricultural nonprofits, just about every restaurant position there is, and, perhaps most importantly for us, Stephen is a talented writer and digital media producer.
While working as the General Manager of Nopa, one of the country's best restaurants, he started their digital media channel, Nopalize. He turned what began as a simple blog into a full-blown multimedia platform generating hundreds of original articles, podcasts, and videos serving a loyal fan base of over 50,000 followers. In March, 2016, Stephen was named Food Writing Fellow by "The Culinary Trust," a program of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, where he writes about food justice and food culture for Civil Eats.
We sat down with Stephen to find out a little more about his background and his ideas on the farm to table movement...
Farm To Fork SF: When did you first develop a passion for food?
Stephen Satterfield: I remember thinking about food differently in my senior year of high-school. I was not passionate about school, but I was passionate about watching Julia Child and Jacques Pépin on PBS after school. They made cooking look so fun. One day after school, my friends and I decided to make a soufflé like one we'd seen Julia Child make. She did this thing where she took two spoons, back-to-back, plowed them through the center of the soufflé, then, pulling the spoons apart, ripped it open. Steam pored from the dish and, for some reason, we just started cracking up. It was delightful. I was hooked.
FTF: Can you recall a certain experience that made you realize you wanted to turn that passion into a career in the restaurant industry?
SS: I don't recall a particular experience, but I do recall a moment, as a directionless second-year college student, facing the prospect of having to pay for another year of out-of-state tuition at University of Oregon, that I realized that the conventional college route wasn't going to work for me. I remember being in the library, looking at a brochure (yes, a brochure!) about culinary school in Portland. I applied on the spot and was enrolled in school there just a few months before my 20th birthday.
FTF: From your experience working in SF over the last few years, what do you think contributes to such a vibrant food scene and engaged foodie community in the Bay Area?
SS: That's easy - farms. California feeds the country and in some cases, (like almonds and walnuts), the world. Often times those are industrial farms, but it's the smaller, local-farms that really define the dynamic food culture here. Restaurants in the Bay Area have created a viable marketplace for small, organic growers. The growers have reciprocated by growing some of the best produce in the world. This is a tradition dating back to 1971 when Chez Panisse in Berkeley started buying from local farms at a time when "organic" wasn't even in the American vernacular. The quality of produce, meats and cheeses attracted talented chefs, and, over the decades they've essentially acted as culinary instructors in their cultivation of a smart and open-minded dining community.
FTF: Over the last decade or so as the farm to table movement has grown, there seems to have been a shift in the minds of consumers, as people are now more conscious than ever before of sustainable practices, where their food comes from, and how their food is made. Why do you think this movement has taken off and where do you see it going?
SS: In terms of where it's heading, it'll be more of the same. The local food movement is now a global movement with no signs of slowing. People will only continue to demand greater transparency in the origin of their food. We'll see this movement leak into politics (for instance, GMO-labeling requirements in Vermont) while forcing multinational food companies at each level to change their product offering to reflect this movement.
FTF: How do you see media and storytelling playing a role in the progression of the farm to table movement?
SS: It's the part of the movement that excites me the most. It's really hard to properly appreciate what you don't understand. I want to help people understand the amazing quality of people who make this movement real. I want them to be revered. Telling their stories allows us to better understand. Some of the most brilliant and inspiring people I've ever met in my life are those who live off of the land and feed us in the process. Their lifestyle: strange (and long) hours, remote location and intensive commuting (or logistics/distribution) make it really hard for people to get to know them. I relish the opportunity to use media to introduce them to the rest of the world.
FTF: What made you want to be a part of Farm To Fork SF?
SS: The clarity of the vision. The combination of food, drink, farms and media have pretty much defined my entire adult life. I feel uniquely suited to deliver on the promise of these events. Farm To Fork is sort of the third dimension of food media. What makes it interesting is the immersive transformative feeling of watching a video of something being harvested, then prepared, then eating that thing. Can you imagine watching Food Network or Chef's Table and having a chance to taste the thing that's being prepared and discussed? It's a really original value proposition for diners and I'm ecstatic to begin working on it.
Photo credit: Dijon Bowden