What This Election Day Means to Us

We asked people from the food community to share their thoughts.

November  6, 2018
Photo by Pexels

Working at Food52, we know firsthand that food has the power to bring people together—in the kitchen, at the dinner table, and far beyond our immediate spaces. Which is why on this Election Day, we're taking a minute to reflect on our great country and how the power to vote can help make it an even better place, one that we all want and need it to be.

For the midterms this year, we reached out to some people in our world and asked, "What does this Election Day mean to you?" From issues surrounding immigration and healthcare to fair wages and environmental policies, here's what they said:

Nik Sharma, Cookbook Author, Oakland, CA

"Last December, I took my oath and became an American citizen. It was an important milestone in my life for many reasons, one of them being able to finally vote. For years, I've paid my taxes and been responsible but never had the right to participate in the democratic process and have a say. A few months ago I got to vote for the first time and when I cast that ballot—I felt and knew I was empowered."

Colu Henry, Author & Chef, New York, NY

"This Election Day is about pushing forward, restoring, and protecting the core values that we believe in. Universal health care, a woman's right to choose, climate change, equality, and so much more. I've never been so involved with an election, much less a midterm one, but those days are over. It's all hands on deck and our responsibility as citizens to show up and work like hell for the changes we want. Each and every one of us should be voting and making sure everyone else they know is voting, too. We can do this if we do it together. It's a fight for the greater good and we have to win."

Amanda Hesser, Co-Founder & CEO of Food52, New York, NY

"When I was a kid, my mom would take me with her to the polling station, which was located in a local firehouse. We lived in rural Pennsylvania; there were no lines at the polls and the officials let me go into the voting booth with my mom, which was a big thrill. I loved all of the levers and doodads. My grandparents were Democrats. My parents were ardent Republicans. My mother and I vote differently, and we don't talk much about politics, but I'm grateful to her for showing me that voting isn't just a privilege but a duty you should honor. I hope to pass this same value on to our kids, no matter who they vote for."

Michael Twitty, Culinary Historian & James Beard Award-Winning Author, Washington, D.C.

"I don't want us to assume we are all progressive, but like it or not, everybody benefits from progressive culture. Part of that benefit is that here in America, with so much promise and fight, we have people who, despite the odds, thrive.

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A large part of my voice in the food world is about cultural representation and expanding the truth about the inner life of cooks and culinarians of color. I'm also a member of the LGBT community and I practice Judaism and though it may sound redundant to some, I am a member of the Jewish people. Being a Black man shapes all of those realities―so does being a man who recognizes his privileges in contrast to what women endure, especially his sistas, but not limited to them. In that nexus, that stew, I don't think I've missed anyone who isn't passionately dedicated to wanting the best for the America that is. I'm not a jingoist, I do not believe in rah-rah-rah Americanism, I'm working with things as they are.

So we vote. I vote. I vote because it's something my Ancestors died for. I vote because some have no voice and other voices have been suppressed. I vote because we have an entire culinary scene made up of my entire country and the globe still trying to make its mark and it's depending on us to save the integrity of the expansiveness of heart that turns our plates into portholes.

I love this country enough not to see its promise die."

Nick Korbee, Partner & Chef of Egg Shop, New York, NY

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“Chefs are supposed to bring people together with their cooking. Politicians are supposed to bring people together through their policies. This doesn’t always happen, and food, like politics, becomes divisive. Why? Because we’ve lost sight of ourselves and the people we represent. I think of Election Day as our political right to show up for ourselves and the people we care about most. I think of each meal as a chance to cast my ballot for what I believe in and improve the lives of the people I care about: my family and my guests.”

Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, Founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, New York, NY

"At Hot Bread Kitchen, I have tried to build a microcosm of the society where I want to live. A society that is diverse, egalitarian, innovative, and optimistic. And, of course, one where good chefs and bakers are paid what they deserve. That is what I hope New York City, and someday our country, will look like. And the only way that we can move in this direction is by voting. When the 2016 election results came in, my only solace was the work that we were doing to connect people with naturalization resources. About half of the women we serve are foreign-born, but fewer are citizens. We have been working with the National Immigration Forum and other organizations to assist women to get citizenship and vote. We have always encouraged our community to vote and, right now, that is more critical than ever."

Edward Lee, Culinary Director of Succotash, Washington, D.C.

"Every election is important and this one seems especially fraught with emotions and anger. Voting is a vital American responsibility but there is actually something more important. We need to remember that after these elections, we still need to engage our communities, we need to help the less fortunate, we need to understand that we will not agree with our neighbors on every issue but our humanity supersedes politics. In this divisive time where we seem to focus all too much on our differences, it is crucial that we also celebrate our commonalities. Food may not solve every problem but it is definitely a place where we can commune, share, disagree and still have a civil discourse. And we can usually all agree on our love for fried chicken."

Renee Erickson, Chef & Co-Owner of Sea Creatures Restaurants, Seattle, WA

“I see this Election Day as a day of hope. I am hopeful that the youth and women will vote for equality for all and will show up in great numbers. I am hopeful that we will not turn our back on the environment. I am hopeful that we will be forward-thinking rather than voting selfishly. Our country is diverse and we need our vote to represent ALL Americans.”

Ashwin Vilkhu, Owner, Saffron Nola, New Orleans, LA

“My family immigrated to the United States when I was young, so U.S. elections have always held a certain degree of meaning and importance to me. However, recent elections, including this upcoming Election Day, feel even more important (both personally and professionally) than ever before. As a restauranteur and hospitality professional, I am acutely aware of the ways in which many areas of current political focus impact not only my business operations but also the health, safety, and security of my employees.

While we have a certain degree of freedom to allow our values to guide our decisions, our elected officials and government policies continue to have the power to either limit or empower us in these areas. Restaurant and hospitality professionals, like myself, work long, labor intensive hours―for many, it may feel irrelevant or exhausting to find the time to vote. I get it. But, our voices matter.”

Steven Satterfield, Chef & Owner of Miller Union, Atlanta, GA

“I’ve been doing everything I know to encourage people to vote. I’ve tried to early-vote, but the line’s been too long. I plan to take the day off this Election Day and hope to see a strong turnout. We’re so lucky as a country that everyone over 18 has the right to vote. There are so many people who don’t exercise that right. Apathy leads us down a dangerous path. People need to be better citizens. We’re not going to get anywhere if people are pointing fingers and hating on each other.”

Sarah Gavigan, Chef of Otaku Ramen & Little Octopus, Nashville, TN

“This Election Day should be the beginning of a deeper involvement in our communities to hold our senators, governors, and representatives accountable throughout their service. This election has shown me that as a community we all need to be more involved.”

What does this Election Day mean to you? Please share your thoughts below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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