Why I Vote


Why I Vote

Voices from the food and beverage industry share stories of motivation and hope

October 30, 2020

Read Time 7 mins

Why I Vote

Election Day is November 3 (that’s just five days away!), and early voting is already taking place across the country, both in-person and by mail.

This past week we’ve been posting stories on our Instagram from chefs, owners, servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff about why they vote, and why they hope you do, too. From small towns to big cities, South Dakota to southern Florida, these individuals draw from the past for strength and look to the future with hope for the future of the industry and our county. Read on to hear their perspectives:

Voting is one of the great privileges afforded to us as Americans. As a farmer, chef, employer, and advocate for regenerative agriculture, I am passionate about building a better future for our planet and voting is a crucial way to make our voices heard about issues that matter.” —Mary Cleaver, Cleaver Co, NYC

Ana Sortun (photo: Kristin Teig Photography)

“We need a leader that tells the truth and that cares about kindness and humanity. There is a lot of work to do to take care of this planet and we need to get going.—Ana Sortun, Oleana, Sofra, and Sarma, Boston

“I view voting as an honor and a duty. Our democracy is strong because are voices can be heard and matter.”—Paul Reilly, Beast + Bottle, Denver

“Voting serves as a tool I use to raise my voice and express commitment to ourselves, our communities, and our future. Know how resources are allocated in your community. Local budgets show you what our leaders truly represent and believe. Vote! Vote! Vote!”—-Saralyn Smith-Collingwood, Dubuque County Food Policy Council, Dubuque, IA

“As an African American it is important for me to vote because I owe it to the many African Americans who came before me. They fought for me to have the right to vote and I must respect them and vote. Voting also allows me to use my voice to elect those I believe will make changes, not only for me, but all Americans.”—Kevin Mitchell, Culinary Institute of Charleston, Charleston, SC

“Voting is beyond ‘exercising my right,’ a.k.a. privilege. Voting is an expression of investing in my community, putting care towards the betterment of those less fortunate, and creating societal change that will lay the foundation for a better future for the next generations to come.”—Jocelyn Ueng, playtes°, NYC and Los Angeles

Matthew Griffin (photo: Eric Medsker)

“As a new father, I think it’s important to cast a vote with an eye to the future. The health of our planet depends on us coming together collectively.—-Matthew Griffin, Happy Cooking Hospitality, NYC

“The first thing I wanted to do when I became a citizen of the United States is to vote. I got there early, stood in line with a big smile on my face, telling anyone who was willing to listen that it was my first time voting ever. I never felt this important. I, an immigrant, can make a difference. People around the world sacrifice everything to have the right to vote, to have a voice in their government. So, in my opinion, when you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain about the government.”—Sanaa Abourezk, Sanaa’s Gourmet Mediterranean, Sioux Falls, SD

“It’s critical to have a voice. What’s made America ‘better’ is we have fought for the right to vote and speak. Fair elections and the right to vote by ALL is how the people truly have the power to make change happen.”—Susan Feniger, Socalo and Border Grill, Los Angeles

Mario Pagan

“Voting is our most important right. It is the only way that we can influence our way of life and our future, and at the same time keep accountable those in charge.—Mario Pagán, Mario Pagan Restaurant Group, San Juan, PR

“As hospitality workers and owners, we work hard to contribute and add value to the communities that we call home. Exercising the right to vote is an extremely important role we can play in ensuring that we are heard and that our workers and coworkers are protected. We have a voice we can use through the ballot box to make sure that we have the opportunities to continue to give back and support those same communities.“—Cyrus Batchan, Nightshade, Los Angeles

“It is important for everyone to vote because it is the public’s way of deciding the future of America. Voting is the foundation of a democratic society and it allows for all of us to put in our preference for the policies that we want. Especially in the food movement it is important to support leaders who support food justice and food sovereignty.—April Jones, Pinehurst Farmers Market, Columbia, SC

“Of all the challenges facing us in this critical time, the most alarming to me is the threat to democracy we face from many quarters, foreign and domestic. Voting is our strongest defense.—-Bill Yosses, NYC

“My grandmother was not able to vote until adulthood, and in 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, she was deterred, harassed, and threatened at every turn. My mother marched and protested for voting rights. As a teenager, she was chased and attacked by dogs. In one instance, the police slammed her into a department store front plate glass window. The glass shattered, cutting her face, legs, and hands. The scars on her knee remain and when I see them, I am compelled to vote. I vote to honor the struggles and sacrifices of my foremothers, I vote as an atonement to the suffering and transgressions inflicted upon my ancestors. I vote to fulfill my responsibility to my community. I vote because it is my birthright, it is my legacy, it is my right as a citizen. I vote because I speak, I am speaking, and I will be heard.—Cassandra Loftlin, America’s Test Kitchen, Atlanta

Suzanne Cupps (photo: Evan Sung)

“My voice matters, our industry’s voice matters. Voting is one way to be heard and make an impact on the future of restaurants.—Suzanne Cupps 232 Bleecker, NYC

“As chefs, our duty is to feed and nourish people from both sides of the fence. As an American citizen it is our duty to vote. Get out and vote and don’t sit on the fence. #FriedChickenTakesNoSides”—Art Smith, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin, Lake Buena Vista, FL

“Voting is important to me because it is the most hopeful thing I can think of. As the first American-born child of naturalized Latin-American immigrants I saw my parents gain the right to vote, and years later under Obama-Biden, my husband Eder became a citizen. We owe it to our children and our neighbors’ children to participate in a process and to demand our collective values and institutions are not compromised.”—Alexandra Raij, La Vara, El Quinto Pino, Saint Julivert, and Txikito, NYC

Danielle Leoni

“Just a few generations ago, women weren’t respected enough to have a vote. Today it’s a freedom, it’s our right. #VOTE and show support for the people who will make the decisions that will shape your world.—Danielle Leoni, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, Phoenix

“It’s the 100-year anniversary of a woman having the ability to vote in our country! You can’t just grumble—you’ve got to cast your ballot. You and I have the collective power to protect what is right and to change what is wrong! I vote because I care.”—Sarah Ecolano, Copper River Fish Market, Cordova, AK

“Voting is our responsibility in a democracy. We all have to take part in creating the country we want to live in. We have witnessed the eroding of the parameters of our democracy over the last 4 years and now more than ever it’s time to stand up and participate.”—Ann Cooper, Chef Ann Foundation, Boulder, CO

“I vote for my small business. I vote for my employees who can’t. I vote for my farmers. I vote for my vintners. I vote for the right to determine my own future.”—-Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, CO

Samone Lett

“I was told stories by my grandmother about how they had to fight and march to have the right to vote. My grandmother relocated from North Carolina to New York because of Jim Crow. It was my grandmother that always took me with her to vote every time she voted. I would stand in the lines and go with her in the booth. I vote to honor all those that were not able to and those that fought for me so I could vote today.—Samone Lett, Red Door Events & Catering, Atlanta

As a female, I vote because females before me put their freedom on the line. I can’t let their sacrifice go to waste.”—Toni Elkhouri, Cedar’s Café, Melbourne, FL

Voting is so important for our restaurant, farmer, and food communities. We are the ones determining policy through politicians. It is our duty and our job to stay on top of it and vote.”—-Elizabeth Falkner, Los Angeles

Voting is the most important to me because it’s a way to make your voice heard on the issues that concern you and your family! Voting gives you an opportunity to be part of decision-making that affects your life and the world we live in. Voting is important for everyone because decisions are made on our behalf every day—healthcare, education, housing, global issues like defense and the environment, and local issues like bins and leisure facilities.”—Kabiera Singleton, B’s Soul Creations, Charleston, SC

Nyesha Arrington

“We live in a democracy and are truly able to affect change when there is a collective voice. People on both sides will fight for what they believe in. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is how much do I care about the future well-being of our society. When we actively vote, our voices carry the ability to create systemic growth.”—Nyesha Arrington, Thecollectiveidentity.org

Democracy is a muscle. If you don’t use it, exercise it, it will surely wither.”—Jason Weiner, Almond Restaurants, NYC and Bridgehampton, NY

Learn more about making a plan to vote.

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