This past Thursday night at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, over 700 people gathered to honor the best in American sustainable food and drink at the fourth annual Good Food Awards. Oils were included for the first time in the contest, and olive oil producers earned 7 of the 10 awards in this inaugural category. There were 1,450 entries across ten different categories, representing all 50 states, and winners were chosen based on a blind taste test.
Rich Matthews, of Moonshadow Grove in Oroville, California was excited about being honored in such a diverse competition. “We’ve won a lot of olive oil competitions, but this is more than that, it’s good practices and healthy food,” he said. His ascolano blend oil, like all finalists, was vetted to ensure that it met sustainability and social responsibility standards, including being pressed or bottled without heat, artificial additives, or genetically modified ingredients. Entrants also must also have shown that their products were grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and with fair labor practices in place.
It seemed for many attendees, the award ceremony was the most meaningful part of the entire experience. “Last night was amazing,” said Olivia Newsome-Grieco of the Berkeley Olive Grove 1913. “It meant more than we thought, and the message really touched our heart.” A few highlights of the festivities were speeches delivered by distinguished guests from the food world, including Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Nell Newman. The master of ceremonies for the event was Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a noted medical expert and advisor to President Obama on healthcare.
Jane Lee, one of the two committee chairs for the oil category was happy to see this year’s program include an integral part of cooking. “It’s a no-brainer,” she said. “You can’t have cooking without oil, and everyone should know about these producers, why oil is important, and what goes into their production.” The program is organized by Seedling Projects, an organization that bills itself as a “A ‘do-tank’ for the food movement, transforming ideas into action,” and the awards show is followed by a community marketplace over the weekend, during which winners can sample and sell their products alongside the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco.
The other olive oil producers awarded were Tallgrass Ranch Estate, Fattoria Muia, Frantoio Grove, Jovia Groves Olive Oil and Tiber Canyon Ranch, all from California.