Specialty Food Association Announces 2021 Leadership Awards

Image credit: Adam Jaime, Unsplash
The ninth-annual awards recognize influential and innovative entrepreneurs who are transforming the specialty food industry.

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) is announced the winners of the 2021 Leadership Awards which honor influential and innovative entrepreneurs transforming the specialty food industry.

Nominations were solicited from people across the specialty food industry and the winners were chosen by members of the SFA’s Recognition Industry Working Group.

The awards will be presented during the SFA’s Specialty Food LIVE! at a special ceremony on January 19, 2021.

The Winners

The awards winners this year are comprised of three categories: Business Leadership, Citizenship, and Vision.

Business Leadership

Bri Warner, Atlantic Sea Farms: Through championing regenerative kelp aquaculture, introducing a new, nourishing, and sustainable food source to the U.S., and working with partner farmers to help create a more resilient and adaptive environment, Warner and her team have expanded the company to work with 24 partner farmers from Portland to Eastport, Maine, increased kelp supply by 20 times, and grown sales by 800%.

Desmond Tan, Burma, Inc.: In 1992, Tan bought a failing Burmese restaurant in San Francisco and has made Burmese food one of the most popular cuisines in the Bay Area. Tan decided to take the farm to table philosophy literally and went to Burma to buy Laphet directly from the source. He partnered with micro tea farmers living in the Shan State and whose families had been growing and fermenting tea leaves for hundreds of years.


Bryon White, Yaupon Bros. American Tea: White has revived the American tea industry by growing and harvesting a native, naturally caffeinated plant species, Yaupon Holly. He also supports indigenous cultures which were the original consumers of Yaupon Holly Tea and has donated 15,000 meals to Feeding Florida during the pandemic.
Channy Laux, Angkor Cambodian Food: A refugee from Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Laux has introduced Khmer ingredients to the U.S. and works with local refugee farmers to source ingredients. Angkor Food supports children’s education in Cambodia, and a women’s recovery center in San Francisco.


Pierre Thiam & Phil Teverow, Yolélé: Yolélé was born of the realization that to cook West African food, you need West African ingredients. Those ingredients — like fonio, dawadawa, and selim pepper — were not available to most Americans. Thiam, a chef, and Teverow, a specialty food veteran, had a vision of bringing traditional West African ingredients to culinarily curious American shoppers, while providing income for smallholder farmers in one of the world’s most precarious places, the West African Sahel.

Linda Appel Lipsius, Teatulia: Appel Lipsius has led Teatulia Organic Teas to transform the tea industry by pioneering the garden-to-cup model. Teatulia’s 3,000-acre regenerative tea garden drives economic growth in Northern Bangladesh through a community co-operative. The co-op features a cattle-lending program, adult education, and organic farming jobs. Together these elements empower, educate, and provide resources to community members to reverse cycles of poverty.

To read more about the winners, click here.

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