Over the past ten years, the culinary scene in many cities throughout the country has doubled with new restaurants opening at a rapid pace. Notable chefs like Chef Jose Graces of Philadelphia opening restaurants in Chicago and Washington, D.C. This culinary trend extends to other talented people who follow their passion for food to own a food truck or open a shop to sell a food or beverage product they created.

Originally from Mississippi, Melissa Jones grew up primarily in Silver Spring, MD and has been an event planner for the past 10 years. She started Good Soil Events in 2014 and due to the success of her #FoodTalks events, this will replace Good Soil Events for the time being. Since starting Good Soil Events she has hosted around 20 events.

Melissa Jones welcoming everyone and introducing the two speakers.

“When I started hosting food events that promoted sustainable agriculture and healthy food, I wanted guests to share their food story instead of their credentials and work background. We’re so used to saying what we do for a living and I wanted to change that up. In doing so, I was surprised to hear some of the stories behind their journey and wanted to document them,” Melissa said on what inspired her to start the #FoodTalks platform.

The idea behind the speakers sharing their story is to also provide guidance to others that want to become a Foodpreneur. The word “Foodpreneur” simply means someone who is an entrepreneur in the food business. Now with food incubators such as Mess Hall and Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C. allow future Foodpreneurs an opportunity to rent space in their commercial kitchen to create their product. The incubators also have event space where they can feature products to their guests.

The #FoodTalks event this past July was held yet again on the enchanting Up Top Acres in the Navy Yard neighborhood. Up Top Acres was founded in 2014 by childhood friends, Kristof Grina, Kathleen O’Keefe and Jeff Prost-Greene who grew up in Washington, D.C. Each passionate about sustainable food practices, they brought their farming and event planning skills together to grow a garden around the outdoor perimeter of the building. This dynamic endeavor combines farming and city life in a way that is also good for the environment. They host a variety of events for the metropolitan area and even have a CSA program for the community. You can sign up for their newsletter to learn about upcoming events.

The first speaker, Nana Juju, shared her personal story that led her to start her own business. She came from a family that had unhealthy eating habits which was the vehicle that propelled her to change her own habits. Inspired by her personal transformation, she sought to start a business that would help others. She is a Douala for new mothers where she offers new parent care and education as well we restorative meals and preparation for the family. She also offers meal planning and preparation for anyone interested in living a healthier lifestyle. In addition, she can offer guidance on organic farming. Nana Juju made a delicious garlicky kale salad for the guests along with a savory cheese herb spread.

Nana Juju

Nana Juju’s garlicky kale salad

Herb spread made by Nana Juju. The flowers are from the garden at Up Top Acres.

Brittany Watts, co-founder of local catering company Nappie Goods, was the second and final speaker. While she comes from a climate change career background, food had always been another passion of hers. She grew up in the south and even though the food tended to be less healthy she ate healthier on a regular basis. Brittany made a vegetarian curry dish for the event to showcase what her catering company can make for their customers.

Brittany Watts

“Everything that has to do with food has to do with climate change,” Brittany said on how important the climate has on food.

Curry Dish made by Nappie Roots

Chef and Owner of Ruby Scoops, Rabia Kamara, brought some of her gourmet ice cream for us to enjoy. The peach ginger was well-balanced and simply fantastic. Her piña colada tasted like taking a bite of the famous tropical drink.

Owner & Chef of Ruby Scoops, Rabia Kamara, scooping her delicious Peach Ginger ice cream for a lucky guest.

“My focus will always be connecting and sharing food stories from people here in Washington, DC area. However, I want to also collect over 5,000 stories from all over the globe; highlighting people of color and promoting their work,” Melissa said on the direction she sees #FoodTalks going within the next few years.

Mother Nature was kind again giving us another gorgeous evening for a rooftop garden party. Sounds from the Washington National’s baseball game hummed in the background as the rays of the sunset glistened off the produce surrounding the magnificent new building.

The Nat’s Baseball Stadium can be seen on the far left of the rooftop garden.

Written by Lisa M. Comento