Cheers to the all-new Drinks Committee
Throughout 12 years of Good Food Awards, we have relied on an incredible group of volunteer Committee Chairs to guide category criteria, form category committees, nominate judges and lead the tastings. As industry experts and dedicated members of the Good Food community, Committee Chairs provide essential insights about the unique challenges faced by entrants in each individual category.
This year, the debut of the Drinks category was led by a trio of best friends, business partners and all-around fantastic foodies: McKenzie Phelan, Meghan Shellenberg and Johanna Dooley. They met more than six years ago while developing a global corporate food program at Airbnb. In the years since, Meghan and McKenzie have started their own culinary consultancy, Foodmuse. While taking on the challenge of organizing a new category, these three have also devoted time to other areas of the Good Food Foundation: McKenzie is helping to put together next spring’s Portland Mercantile, while Johanna is lending her interior design skills to the new Good Food office. Read on to learn more about their favorite beverages, exciting trends in the Drinks category and why they support Good Food.
Were there any trends in the Drinks entries that were particularly interesting?
MS: There were a few barley milks, which I wasn’t familiar with before.
JD: There were also mushroom drinks and other drinks with probiotic inclusions that were intriguing. We saw a lot of “functional beverages” this year.
MP: One product that sticks out in my memory was a blueberry juice. I think those three examples really illustrate the variety of products in Drinks and raise a big question—how does one compare a mushroom drink to a beet kvass to a barley milk? Trying to engineer the tasting to avoid palate fatigue was a good challenge, especially with the addition of CBD products. As someone who had been involved in other Good Food events, I was staggered by the lift—not just of the chairs, but of the whole organization. The tasting is no truly small task, and it’s just one of many events in a year for the Good Food Foundation.
What are your go-to drinks? Do any of you have a particular beverage routine?
JD: Meghan, I think you’ve got this one.
MS: I do have a bit of a routine. All day long I drink sparkling water. In the morning, I make a lemon, cayenne, and apple cider vinegar drink, then I have a hemp protein shake with flaxseed, and then I have an iced matcha with oat milk.
MP: Hanna and I could probably be summed up with coffee, water, and wine. Hanna sometimes goes for a kombucha.
How do you think about sustainability in food, and what does that mean to you?
MS: One of the things that McKenzie and I have been involved with at Foodmuse is regenerative agriculture. There’s a lot of buzz about sustainability and how to be a sustainable food business. Is it the packaging? Is it the serving size, or how its displayed? But to me, sustainability is all about the ingredients of a product, and where they come from, and how they’ve been grown or produced.
MP: The other piece that is central to the food dialogue is equity, social responsibility, representation. It’s great to see that Good Food has adopted a lot of that in the vernacular, wanting to make sure that where possible and where companies have scaled, they have scaled in consideration of their staff and equity in mind. I think that’s great, and at the same time, we have a long, long way to go towards representation in agriculture.
Why is it important to you to support small producers?
MP: I think we have created a culture of extraction and overuse and the sense that everything is abundant and dispensable. Of all the places that we can economize, why sacrifice one of the most ancient, nourishing, and important elements, which is supplying each other with food? When I think about supplying each other with food, I want that to be as close to one-to-one as possible—not monocultures, not giant conglomerates. The true cost of food has been so deeply obfuscated through subsidies, that just trying to remind yourself of the true cost of it and diverting that cost to people who are excellent stewards of the land, and of animals, and of their communities, is just the right way to be. The best we can do is investing in those who are using regenerative practices.
MS: I want to support small producers. The more people can be involved, the better, and getting rid of these huge conglomerates is important. Why are we supporting some billionaire CEO? Why wouldn’t I want to support the person who’s an hour away that’s producing all this great stuff?
JD: And in the COVID era, it’s also really interesting shift away from travel and towards experiencing culture through food. There are so many people in small businesses who are trying to bring those foods to the market. When we can’t travel, there’s someone nearby who is producing that food, and I think it’s a great reaction to COVID to focus in on local producers and the diversity of that group.