As lovers of food, we know the value of a great plate. However, we also know that we can no longer ignore the impact of our food industries on the environment. There’s a growing need for restaurants and food systems to be more sustainable — and we want to celebrate the businesses and organizations that are driving this positive change.

From individuals who minimize food loss and educate Canadian households about cutting down waste, to breweries that reduce the amount of energy and water consumed, our eight Leaders in Sustainability are committed to the stewardship of Ontario.

We’ve highlighted eco-conscious chefs and entrepreneurs who are encouraging us to care more about our planet and will inspire sustainability champions for future generations.

Gillian Flies & Brent Preston

Co-owners of The New Farm, a regenerative, organic farm

Foodism 40: Gillian Files & Brent Preston

This wife-husband duo is pioneering regenerative farming practices in Ontario. For nearly 20 years, Gillian Flies and Brent Preston have owned and operated The New Farm, an organic family farm near Creemore. They produce premium quality organic vegetables for restaurants, retail stores and wholesale customers in an effort to build a just, equitable and inclusive food system in southern Ontario. Last year, they became the first Canadian farm to be certified as regenerative organic; in 2023 they transformed their farm business into The New Farm Centre for Climate Action, a charitable organization dedicated to advocating for a regenerative farming system.

Jef Edwards

Chef and owner of Ration | Beverley, a zero-waste fine-dining restaurant

Foodism 40: Jef Edwards

In 2020, Jef Edwards and his fiancé, Eleni Bock, bought the restaurant at the Beverley Hotel. Soon after, Ration | Beverley — a zero-waste fine-dining restaurant based on exploring fermentation and wild foods — was born. Over the years, chef Edwards’s efforts in zero-waste grew as he strived to use every part of each ingredient he could to promote a more sustainable hospitality industry. That meant finding new ways to mitigate food waste, conserve energy and forage invasive species to rebalance ecosystems — all while engaging with the community and offering resources for them to explore their own environmentally focused journey. In 2022, Ration | Beverley was recognized by the Michelin Guide.

Lori Nikkel

CEO of Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charitable organization

Foodism 40: Lori Nikkel

Lori Nikkel’s guidance has changed the way Canada manages food loss and waste. As CEO of Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charitable organization, Nikkel has developed a national food recovery network that redistributes healthy surplus food to thousands of communities in need. To date, Second Harvest has rescued more than 37.8 million pounds of food before it ended up in a landfill. Nikkel is a visionary and champion of social and environmental justice issues related to food, and an international thought leader on perishable food recovery. She has been named one of Waterstone Capital’s Most Admired CEOs and, in 2022, was appointed to the Order of Ontario.

Jennifer Commins

Pluck Tea CEO and founder

Foodism 40: Jennifer Commins

Certified tea sommelier, Jennifer Commins launched Pluck Tea in 2012 with a mission to fix restaurant tea. Her company led the charge in Toronto by creating signature teas with locally sourced and grown ingredients to pair with farm-to-table menus. Commins, the Pluck Tea CEO and founder, is a creative innovator who partners with local juice, wine and chocolate makers to give a second life to citrus peels, grape skins and cacao shells that she blends into teas. Today, Pluck is a certified Upcycled Food Association member committed to reducing food waste, one cup of tea at a time. Pluck is the tea of choice for cafés, restaurants and select retailers that value freshness, quality and sustainability.

Dan & Kristin Donovan

Co-owners of Hooked, sustainable seafood market

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Ten years ago, Dan and Kristin Donovan set out to create a fish store focused on doing better. They opened Hooked, a Leslieville seafood market, in 2011. The Donovans navigate the science and politics of ethically sourcing fish and shellfish from the vast wealth of food that rivers, lakes and oceans offer. Their store was groundbreaking — prior to this, there was very little in the way of local, let alone sustainable, fish available in Toronto. The Donovans ensure Hooked only supports responsible, ethical catch methods, and will only work with small boat fisheries and communities.

Paul Sawtell & Grace Mandarano

Owners of 100km Foods, a wholesale local food distributor

Foodism 40: Paul Sawtell
Foodism 40: Grace Mandarano

Paul Sawtell and Grace Mandarano are co-owners of 100km Foods, a wholesale local food distributor in Toronto and the GTA. The organization connects chefs with products from local farmers and producers. It’s a win-win partnership; farmers gain access to large, urban markets, while chefs get delicious, farm-fresh food, which ends up on your plate. Both Sawtell and Mandarano are invested in the cause. Mandarano believes being connected to people through clean, fair food creates a strong, authentic community. Sawtell loves to see the direct and strong connections that chefs and farmers forge as a result of working with 100km Foods.

Matt Giffen

Founder of Bench Brewing Company, a Certified B Corporation

Foodism 40: Matt Giffen

After 25 years spent working in big cities, Matt Giffen was drawn to follow his passion for farming and agriculture, a lifestyle he knew and loved growing up London, Ontario. He founded Bench Brewing Company, a Certified B Corporation. The Niagara-based brewery also received Carbon Neutral certification by BMO Radicle Climate Smart, and achieved a zero wastewater footprint by recycling 100 per cent of its brewing wastewater. A custom water purification system treats all of Bench’s wastewater onsite, recycling it for non-potable reuse.

Natasha Fritzley

Executive Vice President of Hospitality and Government/Industry Relations, Cowbell Brewing Co.

Foodism 40: Natasha Fritzley

Executive VP Natasha Fritzley has been with the Cowbell Brewing Co. team since the brewery opened its doors in 2017, and has played an important role in all aspects of the company. With her extensive background in marketing and economics, Fritzley has helped Cowbell grow into the sustainability-focused success it’s become today. Cowbell Brewing Co. is committed to maximizing sustainable practices and minimizing environmental impact. From their brewing practices and their choice of packaging materials to their energy and water consumption, Cowbell Brewing Co. has embraced the responsibility and legacy of those who cared for Cowbell Country before them.