The month of May is dedicated to the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl to celebrate LA’s diverse food and drink scene. Only in LA can you nosh on authentic Armenian food in Little Armenia and grab Mexican food in Little Mexico aka Olvera Street which is literally 5 miles away then walk 10 minutes to Little Tokyo for authentic Asian desserts. The food scene is impressive.
During the month of May, you’ll see many restaurants and bars participating in The Food Bowl. There will be food tours of some of LA’s tastiest neighborhoods, a cocktail week, a 50+ vendor night market and many discussions around town about food sustainability with some heavy hitting chefs. But first, let’s get to the meat and bones of the Food Bowl’s very existence.
I had the opportunity to interview a few LA Times food bowl representatives, Amy Scattergood, LA Times food editor and Suzy Jack, Vice President of public affairs and events for the Los Angeles Times to get their insight on this year’s highly anticipated event.
Q: What are the major differences that we should take note of between last year’s festival and this year’s festival?
A: “For our second Food Bowl, we wanted to expand our attention, not by adding more days to the 31 we’re already covering, but by adding depth and scope. This city has so much diversity to its cooking and dining experiences — last year we only touched the surface. We want to have a stronger focus on the chefs and their restaurants, and on the farmers, bakers, winemakers and other folks who help to bring such diverse food to our city-wide table. We also want to focus more on those who can’t get enough food in the first place, by drawing attention to the enormous issue of homelessness and hunger in this town.”— Amy Scattergood, food editor for the Los Angeles Times.
Q: Why did the LA Times decide to focus on sustainability and food waste?
A: The festival is an influential platform to drive awareness that food waste is an important and growing issue globally. This is not an issue only in Los Angeles. Every single person has the power to drive much-needed change with his or her own daily habits. We want to connect our audiences with the origins of their food and help chefs and restaurants deliver their messages promoting sustainability. We have a Zero Waste policy for all our Los Angeles Times events. With the hundreds that descend on our outdoor Night Market, we want to ensure that at least 90% of any waste doesn’t end up in landfills. Our charity partners, LA Kitchen and Food Forward are two organizations that are leading the way in sustainability. For instance, fruits and vegetables that either haven’t been sold or are unsaleable because of cosmetic defects are collected from farmers markets and produce wholesalers by groups such as Food Forward and delivered to L.A. Kitchen.
Q: When does the planning start to put on such a ginormous event?
A: We start planning the FOOD BOWL festival almost as soon as the festival finishes. We have actually already started planning for 2019 with a host of chefs interested in participating given they may have been unavailable this year. Planning never really stops and starts – we are continually connecting with new restaurants, new chefs, bars, beer companies, hotels, the list is never-ending. We want them all to know about FOOD BOWL and to get involved so we can do all we can to support LA’s food and bar scene.
Q: Is there a criteria that restaurants, bars, markets must follow to be a part of The Food Bowl? Does everyone participate in the cause to help fight hunger? What impact will The Food Bowl have on the LA community?
A: “Our aspiration is to get every restaurant, bar, market, farm – everyone involved in food and drinks in Los Angeles, basically – involved in Food Bowl. Our dream is that each event during the festival would promote sustainability and waste reduction, and directly or indirectly help nourish the most vulnerable members of our community. In our second year now, we’ve made progress on both counts.
Some of Food Bowl’s most popular events last year were about how to address hunger and encourage sustainability. Extending those themes this year, we’re excited to bring together chefs and advocates, including José Andrés who has been on the ground assisting disaster relief efforts following the wildfires in California and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, to share how they’re changing the world through the power of food.
We are working with wonderful chefs, farmers and non-profit organizations leading the way on many of these issues to ensure that the festival will inspire people to think and act more thoughtfully, not just during the month of May, but all year long.” Suzy Jack, vice president of public affairs and events for the Los Angeles Times.
Q: What is the selection process for a vendor to participate in The Food Bowl?
A: The Los Angeles Times FOOD BOWL program is about celebrating Los Angeles’s culinary scene. The Los Angeles Times invites chefs, restaurants, hotels, bars, and venues to submit their unique event ideas to be listed as part of our month-long programming throughout May. Event Planning Guide provides interested vendors with ideas as to how to get involved. We also invite vendors to participate in our 5-day Night Market in Grand Park. The FOOD BOWL team works closely with the editorial team on the selection process however some events may not all qualify based on the lack of creativity or may just be a discount offer. We want people to think outside the box and do something they may not have done before in their restaurant or at another venue