“Culinary Conversations” Group Aims to Strengthen Grand Rapids’ Regional Food System

Posted on January 4, 2019 by Downtown Market

Grand Rapids Downtown Market Partnering with Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women and MSU Extension on 2019 Events

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., December 27, 2018 – On January 15, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market will launch “Culinary Conversations,” a peer-to-peer collaboration and networking group for West Michigan’s food industry professionals, including growers, producers, chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and others, intended to strengthen Grand Rapids’ regional food system.

Led by the Downtown Market, Culinary Conversations is a unique partnership between Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) and Michigan State University Extension. Each monthly MeetUp will include both networking and educational opportunities. Panelists for the first session include entrepreneurs turned industry experts from Founders Brewing Company, Green Collar Farms and Amore Trattoria.

“Feeding and nourishing our community is the core function of our food system, and connecting food innovators with experts will help us build a healthy ecosystem,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. “A healthy local food system is an excellent economic indicator—and that West Michigan is on the right track to becoming self-sufficient to feed everyone who makes this place their home.”

Regions with strong economies are independent from other regions for its citizens' most basic needs, most importantly food. West Michigan has more than 12,200 local farms, hundreds of locally owned restaurants and food processors in our immediate area, all of which create a network that can support each other.

“We are passionate about creating a local culture that helps food ideas become successful businesses, and create a network for their growth,” said Laurie Supinski, program manager at Start Garden. “In the food and beverage world, creating a culture of entrepreneurship and investing into that culture is extremely important to make sure that local businesses are supported.”

“We’re seeing more and more diversity in the local food scene, and that’s absolutely fantastic, but we want to keep trying for more,” said Kelli Smith, business development officer at GROW. “We’d love to see more women in leadership and ownership roles in our local food community, and we have the resources to help support that initiative.”

Times, dates and topics for the first three seminars are below. More info and registration is available at https://www.meetup.com/Culinary-Conversations-Grand-Rapids/. Sponsors of Culinary Conversations include Experience Grand Rapids, SpartanNash and Pioneer Construction.

January 15, 5-7:30 p.m.

Culinary Conversations kicks off with a panel discussion featuring three local food and beverage extraordinaires, discussing how critical community connections and local support led to their success in the local food, beverage and agriculture industries. Sponsored by Pioneer Construction.


John Green – Executive Chairman of Founders Brewing Company, Investor and Chairman of Revolution Farms
Brian Harris – Founder of Green Collar Farms
Jenna Arcidiacono – Chef and Owner of Amore Trattoria
Moderator: Lisa Knight – Director, Urban League Center for Health and Wellness


GENERATION YUM, with Eve Turow
February 20, 5:30-7 p.m.

Speaker Eve Turow Paul is a thought-leader on youth culture and the food system. She has spent years researching and writing about food culture and how 21st century innovations and pressures are reshaping the human food experience and people's wants and needs, most evident in the Millennials (1980-1996) and Generation Z (1996- 2010). Author of A Taste of Generation Yum, How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs, and Microbrews Will Make or Break the FUTURE of FOOD, Eve has consulted with Google Food Lab, the Culinary Institute of America, SXSW and many others. Lead Sponsor: Spartan Nash, Supporting Sponsor: Experience Grand Rapids.