Specialty Food Magazine

FALL 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Justin Rodriguez and Danny Alas, chefs, Paloma CafE A s self-described queer chefs of color, Justin Rodriguez and Danny Alas know first- hand that those qualities can present challenges in many restaurant kitchens. That's why their acclaimed New Orleans restaurant, Paloma Cafe, will not be an unwelcome space for anyone, in the kitchen or in the dining room, so long as they can help it. "Obviously, we want to make great food, but we also want to create a place where people from different walks of life can come to work and feel comfortable, especially in an industry that can be so hostile," Rodriguez says. "Danny and I have been working in the industry for more than 10 years now, and that was one thing we saw that was missing—a sense of community." The pair sees the cafe as a platform for spreading a message of acceptance in the industry. They are committed to developing job opportunities for people of all back- grounds and orientations. The two met while studying at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Miami, and both worked at Compère Lapin in New Orleans before opening Paloma Cafe. The cuisine draws on inf luences from their Latin-Caribbean backgrounds—Rodriguez's family is Dominican and Alas' family is from Venezuela. Paloma Cafe has been well-received in the community and is known as a good employer in the region, they note. "We both have been mindful about getting the vibe right, and getting a good atmosphere in the space," says Alas. "There's something about the chemistry we've created in the space that's contagious."—Mark Hamstra 12 Under 35 Komal Ahmad, CEO, Copia T hink of Copia as a match.com situation, its technology connecting businesses with excess food to the people who need it. Komal Ahmad, 28, launched the for-profit Bay Area company in 2012 after finding out it wasn't so easy to give away wholesome food to the hungry. The entrepreneur was a senior at Berkeley when she encountered a man near campus beg- ging for food, not money. She invited him to lunch and learned he had just gotten back from a tour of duty in Iraq. His benefits hadn't kicked in and he said he hadn't eaten in three days. "Adding insult to injury, the stark reality was that across the street thousands of pounds of perfectly edible food were thrown out every day from our dining hall," Ahmad says. She got nowhere at first, asking why the food was being dumped instead of redistributed. Because of liability issues, she was told. "Yeah, homeless people have lawyers who are going to sue you," she retorted. She learned about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which encourages busi- nesses to donate and distribute food without being subject to civil or criminal liability. She got her way—and one day found herself saddled with 500 gourmet sandwiches left over from the dining hall. No local nonprofits wanted them except for one place that agreed to take 15 sandwiches. "I still had 485," she said, despairing, 'Why is it so hard to do the right thing?' And thus, the idea for Copia began to germinate. How it works: Stadiums, caterers, and restaurant groups use Copia's app to schedule pickups of their untouched surplus. Drivers are paid to recover it and routed to the nearest nonprofit that has communicated its needs. Copia makes money by helping businesses with tax deductions and sharing predictive analytics to reduce waste. To date, the company has diverted 2.4 million pounds of food from landfills.—Julie Besonen Ages: 29 and 28 Age: 28 30 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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