TOPAZ PAGE-GREEN, Founder & CEO of The Lunchbox Fund

Most people see 25 cents as loose change. Topaz Page-Green sees it as something more. That small sum pays for one warm, nutritional meal for schoolchildren living in poverty across southern Africa, thanks to the work of the Lunchbox Fund. Often, it is their only daily meal. “School attendance improves, physical development improves. Behavior improves. Grades improve,” Page-Green explains of the multiple educational benefits. On an average day, she visits existing sites and seeks out new school additions in her native South Africa—an activity which often involves traversing rural, unmarked roads in a rental car, to find places that don’t exist on a map. “We do not avoid places that are tough, or that are socially or geographically difficult to access.” When she started the non-profit organization in 2003 it fed 100 children. By early next year, 25,000 schoolchildren will receive a fortifying meal—every day. “It’s a very powerful use of 25 cents,” she says. “The last cab you took represents 100 meals. You do the math.”

Born: Johannesburg. In July! That makes me a moonchild

 

Lives: In the one and only New York City

 

Education: My travels (I graduated from NYU as well)

 

How long have you worked in your current role: 13 years

 

Office: New York City; Johannesburg, Cape Town

 

Usual hours: 7am-7pm

 

Coffee order: I don’t drink caffeine. I order hot water for the most part. No lemon, just hot water.

 

Average emails per day: Probably around 75-100. I’m rigorous with spam and unsubscribing to newsletters.

 

Countries travelled to per month: A lot! Sometimes up to 5 or 6. But I like to try to stay in one place to keep myself healthy—not to mention the serious issue of carbon footprint.

What did you want to be "when you grew up”? Aside from my princess fantasy, I always wanted to help people. I did not know how it would manifest but it was a driving force.

 

What do you love most about your job? Absolutely everything. I love being in schools and playing with armfuls of children and the sound of little mouthfuls of food being chewed. I love learning from the mothers and women who run schools and seeing what hard work really looks like. I love fundraising and engaging with artists and producing the benefits that people enjoy. I love making this charity grow.

 

Best advice you ever received? I was told to start small.

 

What would you advise someone today? To care about things as much as possible. Care about people, animals, the environment…care about everything.

 

Does your job require a “dress code”? At my annual benefits it’s Prada (our title sponsor) all the way.

 

3 characteristics required to do your job well. Empathy, will, focus.

 

Greatest achievement to date? We have grown from 100 to 25,000 kids in our program and are expanding. There are 4 million children in South Africa that fall through the crack and do not receive food from the government. When I start to make a dent on these figures, perhaps I will start to feel a sense of achievement.

 

Is time-off important? I think there is an imbalance as to what we place value on.  Work is important and we also need to stop, breathe, connect with the human beings around you and be grateful for the life you live.

THE LUNCHBOX FOUNDATION BY THE NUMBERS

0.25: Cost (in $) of one meal

1: Founder, Topaz Page-Green

31: People working for the charity (including local cooks and fieldworkers)

100: Cost (in $) to feed a child for 2 years

5,000,000: Meals projected to be served by LBF in 2017

11,900,000: Children in South Africa living below the poverty line

 

Donate at www.thelunchboxfund.org/donate

GAIL MONAGHAN, Cookbook Author, Cooking Teacher & WSJ Off Duty Columnist

A national treasure in her field, New Yorker Gail Monaghan knows food, cooking and everyone in it. Though she began her career in design (making needlepoint and handbags), the Wellesley grad married, had two children, and then enrolled in culinary school. “I thought ‘Why not? This could be fun, it's certainly useful and maybe it will lead to something.’" Lead to something it did. After a successful stint baking gourmet cookies for Dean & Deluca, she found herself tasked with writing a cookbook in a mere six weeks. It would be the first of many. Countless magazine features followed (she’s still Off Duty’s regular food columnist) as well as TV (on ABC’s The Chew), elegant cooking classes in her art-filled loft…and still more cookbooks. The latest one, It’s All in the Timing (out this month) instructs on when (as well as what) to prepare for a fabulous soirée—so now we can all make hosting look as easy as she does.

Born: Manhattan (but I moved to West Los Angeles as a baby)

 

Lives: Midtown Manhattan

 

Education: BA from Wellesley; a professional culinary degree from Peter Kump's Cooking School (now the Institute of Culinary Education)

 

Family: Divorced with two grown daughters whom I'm very close to.

 

How long have you worked in your current role: I've been involved with professional baking, cookbook writing, food journalism and teaching cooking since I graduated from cooking school in 1991.

 

Office: In my midtown loft.

 

Usual hours: Completely irregular

 

Breakfast: Fruit and coffee

How did you start? I actually began in design. I made needlepoint in the '70s when that was all the rage and in the '80s I designed handbags and sold them to Barney's and Saks. When I had children I stopped working but I always loved to cook and I was really good at it. A friend suggested I go to cooking school. I enrolled at The Institute of Culinary Education in New York and received my culinary degree in 1991.

 

What did you want to be "when you grew up"? A psychiatrist. But then I heard you had to go the medical school so that was the end of that.

 

What do you love most about your job? That I don't have to go to the office and I'm on my own time.

 

What do you dislike about your job? Nothing! I don't even mind the washing up. It’s kind of like meditation, making order out of chaos.

 

Best advice you ever received? Do what you love. And find a mentor. Jeremiah Tower (the initial co-owner of Chez Panisse with Alice Waters) became one of my closest friends after I edited his book and the fact that such an established chef supported me really helped. He taught me to clean up as you cook. Real chefs clean as they go. I'm not a tidy person—except when I'm cooking.

 

What would you advise someone today? Pick something that interests you, follow it, and don't worry about it. It will lead somewhere good. Trust yourself rather than listening to the often misguided suggestions of others.

 

1 characteristic required to do your job well? Be flexible and able to roll with the punches. If the soufflé falls, just call it your grandmother's favorite pudding and move on.

 

How would you define success? When work doesn't feel like work. 

WHAT TO COOK NEXT:

Gail Monaghan shares her go-to dinner party dishes

 

Canapés: Truffled Almonds and Parmesan-Rosemary Coins

 

Starter: Whole Artichokes with Curry-Shallot Dipping Sauce

 

Main: Whiskey Marinated Salmon with Garlic-Ginger Mayonnaise, Onion Confit and Corn Pudding

 

Dessert: Caramelized Pears

 

Final Touch: Scatter freshly chopped cilantro over the fish and serve the pears with vanilla crème fraîche

KERRY DIAMOND,
Co-founder of Cherry Bombe
and Restauranteur

It’s no surprise to find women in the household kitchen (thank you, 1950’s). But in (and around) the professional one? Sadly, those women seem to get far less airtime. “There are so many great women in the food world, yet men dominated the media coverage. We wanted to help change that,” says Kerry Diamond of co-founding Cherry Bombe, the biannual indie magazine spotlighting females making an impact in the food industry. Lest you think this is strictly a magazine for those who like food, cover stars such as Karlie Kloss and Chrissy Teigen, thoughtfully-designed pages rich in white space and thick paper stock remind you that Diamond comes from the fashion and beauty worlds—giving the mag its “glossy” feel. When Diamond isn’t lining up stories or arranging interviews, the three Brooklyn restaurants she co-owns with boyfriend Chef Rob Newton (Nightingale Nine, Smith Canteen, and Wilma Jean) keep her busy. Never too busy to help support her female peers, however. “There are so many great restaurants run by women right now, I make it a priority to visit them.”

Born: Staten Island, New York

 

Lives: Brooklyn, New York

 

Education: B.A. in English from SUNY Plattsburgh

 

Resume: WWD, Harper’s Bazaar (beauty), Lancôme and Coach (PR), Yahoo (food).

 

How long have you worked in your current role: 4 years

 

Office: Everywhere from The Wing in the Flatiron District to my apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

 

Coffee order: A cortado from Smith Canteen.

 

Lunch hour: I try to pack my own lunch or go out. I can’t stand all the waste from takeout.

 

Average emails per day: Oh gosh, a painful number.

 

Cell phones: 1. I got rid of my BlackBerry a few months ago. It was a rough breakup.

How did you get your start? As a high school intern at the Village Voice in the late ‘80s. The fashion and nightlife departments didn’t need me, so I wound up helping the team on the city politics desk.

 

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up"? An astronaut or a veterinarian.

 

What do you love most about your job? I’ve always loved telling other people’s stories. I’ve also always been a feminist, even from a young age, so I like helping to support other women in the food world. I love the community that’s sprung up around women and food.

 

What do you dislike about your job? All the emails.

 

What was the best advice you ever received? Glenda Bailey used to tell us, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”

 

What would you advise someone today? Educate yourself about finances.

 

What is your office style? I used to get so dressed up at Lancôme and Bazaar. Today, I dress a bit more casually because I do so much running around.

 

3 characteristics required to do your job well. Creativity, curiosity, and hustle.

 

What is your greatest achievement to date? I don’t know that I have an answer for that. I feel like I have so much more to do.

 

How would you define success? Making a difference.

 

What did you wear to your first interview? I wore a periwinkle blue sheath dress by Cynthia Rowley with a matching coat when I interviewed with Ed Nardoza from WWD. I probably looked a little matchy-matchy, but they still hired me.

INSIDER TIPS
with Kerry Diamond

1 - Chef Nancy Silverton (of the Mozza restaurant empire in L.A.) is the most fashionable person in food.

 

2 - A new indie brand to watch is Basbaas Sauce by former model Hawa Hassan. Her Somali condiments are so delicious and just the thing to add some intrigue to a bowl of quinoa and roasted veggies.

 

3 - The new restaurants I'm excited about right now are Lalo in Manhattan and Black Walnut in downtown Brooklyn.

 

4 - I'm intrigued by the raw wine movement (natural, organic, low sulfate), and "orange" wines. If you're a big proponent of organic food and farm to table, you should look into what you're drinking!

 

5 - It's almost citrus season. Everyone needs to check out the Sumo, the sunniest, tastiest citrus fruit out there and named for its distinctive topknot and round body.

SKYE McALPINE,
Food & Lifestyle Writer

Few are able to turn a crusty-looking baguette into a chic table centerpiece. Skye McAlpine is one of them. When she’s not strolling through the crumbling canals of Venice in search of fresh seasonal produce, she’s giving cooking lessons at home or penning short essays and recipes for her blog, frommydiningtable.com and the likes of Vanity Fair. A professional domestic goddess, McAlpine lives “La dolce vita between Venice and London”. Romantic by nature (she wrote her PhD thesis on Latin love poetry), her impeccably-curated Instagram feed is a delectable smorgasbord of inspiration pertaining to the idea that living and entertaining can be an art, as well as a job. And then there’s the occasional snap of her cherubic four-year-old son. “There is so much overlap between my work and my personal life, sometimes it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends,” she says. “But I like it that way.”

Born: London

 

Lives: Between London and Venice (I travel back and forth every few weeks)

 

Education: PhD in Ancient Literature

 

How long have you worked in your current role: I’ve been cooking all my life, but I started blogging in 2014.

 

Office: My kitchen

 

Usual hours: 5:30am-after dinner

 

Family: My husband, Anthony, and our son, Aeneas.

 

Coffee order: Jasmine tea

 

Lunch hour: Always involves dessert, I have a sweet tooth.

 

Average emails per day: Too many, I am endlessly battling with my inbox.

How did you get your start? I began writing my blog in 2014 as a way to collect recipes and as an online diary of sorts with anecdotes from my life in Venice. A few months after I started, my posts were featured in the Huffington Post and on larger food sites, and from there everything snowballed.

 

What did you want to be "when you grew up”? A tap dancer.

 

What do you dislike about your job? Working to tight deadlines. And keeping up with my emails.

 

Best advice you ever received? My father always used to say, “Give all, win all.”

 

What would you advise someone today? Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

What is your work style? Fifties vintage dresses, a pair of Charlotte Olympia flats and a linen apron.

 

Does your job require a “dress code”? No, though my apron does come in handy. I’m a very messy cook.

 

Do people “get” your job? There are so many different facets to what I do—cooking, writing, blogging, photography, storytelling, managing social media channels, the list goes on—that I think sometimes it can be hard. But usually when I say that I write about food, people get it.

 

Name 3 characteristics required to do your job well. Passion, patience and warmth.

 

Greatest achievement to date? Teaching my four-year-old son to enjoy eating artichokes.

 

How would you define success? Waking up every morning excited about the day ahead.

 

Is time-off important? Some days I will switch off from social media; or when I’m travelling, a week or so might go by when I don’t write. But I genuinely love what I do and it’s rare that a day goes by when I don’t think about work in some way.

5 TIPS FOR LAYING A LOVELY TABLE from Skye McAlpine

1. A GOOD BASE. If you have a wooden or stone table top, make a feature of it. Otherwise, a white tablecloth (or plain white sheet) works wonders.
2. LINEN NAPKINS. Good napkins make even the simplest of meals feel special. It’s worth investing in linen ones, they become finer and more beautiful the more you use them.

3. CREATIVITY. Make use of what you have on hand. Bowls of fresh fruit, loaves of bread, plates of cheese, flowers, jugs, jars and pots of fresh herbs dotted here and there. More is always more, so lay it all on.

4. MAKE FOOD THE FEATURE. I like to serve everything ‘family-style,’ heaped up on big plates down the middle of the table. It looks plentiful and feels generous—and sets the tone for a relaxed and indulgent meal.

5. MIX IT UP. Use vintage and new plates, glasses and cutlery all together. I also try to create a little movement by mixing heights and layers with cake stands as well as wooden boards for serving.

ANGIE MAR,
Executive Chef &
Owner of The Beatrice Inn

Best known as the woman who made the Beatrice Inn cool again, Chef Angie Mar is, like her style (skinny leather pants and vintage furs), tough—but warm. “We have such a glamorized idea of what being a chef is. The reality is a proper kitchen is like being in the military,” she explains. But it’s not all endless hours (usually 16-18 per day) in the heat of her West Village kitchen. Mar spent the summer in London cooking with chefs from around the world as part “Meatopia.” She’s known for her carnivorous menu, “My food is meant to be eaten with abandon. It’s not there to pamper or placate.” How did she pull off one of New York’s biggest restaurant re-vamps?  Having done the rounds at several successful establishments including the Spotted Pig, she garnered her well-earned knowledge from “the school of the hard knocks.”

Born: Seattle, Washington

 

Now lives: New York, NY

 

How long have you worked in your current role: 3 years

 

Office: West Village

 

Usual hours: 9am-2am

 

Family: Yes, my kitchen crew

 

Coffee order: Large coffee, milk and sugar

 

Lunch hour: Never

 

Average emails per day: 55-60

 

Cell phones: 2

How did you get your start? I came from the corporate world but wasn't happy. When I finally made the decision to cook, everything started to fall into place.

 

What did you want to be "when you grew up"? A lot of things. A rock star…I suppose being a chef is close enough!

 

Best advice you ever received? Do not be afraid to be different, be fearless.

 

What would you advise someone today? Follow your passions, regardless of money or society.

 

What is your office style? I'm always in chef’s whites or a dishwasher's shirt.

 

Does your job require a “dress code”? To me, it's important that there is uniformity. There are many kitchens where chefs wear a different colored aprons [used to denote rank] but in my kitchen, I want everyone to feel and look like equals. At the end of the day we are all just cooks.

 

Describe your “desk”: There are a lot of knives! My office is above the restaurant. I've planted herbs on the roof and it houses a small library of cookbooks, many of them vintage from England and France.

 

Do people “get” your job? No! Absolutely not. In the States, we have such a glamorized idea of what being a chef is. The reality is a proper kitchen is like being in the military and a restaurant is a business. We tend to forget that.

 

3 characteristics required to do your job well? Discipline, creativity and a commitment to perfection.

 

Greatest achievement to date? Buying the Beatrice. It's not every day you get the chance to buy a piece of New York history.

 

How would you define success? Success for me is always changing. I think that the achievement of one goal is the jumping off point to the next. That's how we grow and evolve.

CLOSING TIME…

Where Angie Mar relaxes after a hard day’s work

 

“After we wrap at midnight, I head to Carbone for a late night bite. The boys always have a beautiful bowl of pasta waiting for me when I arrive. The restaurant is winding down, but there are still diners lingering over their wine—it's fantastic people watching.”

JULIA KRAMER,
Senior Editor at Bon Appétit

“I roll in to work at 9:30am, catch up with colleagues and find out where people had dinner the previous night.” For the Bon Appétit editor, it’s not a bad start to the working day. Kramer edits and writes for both the print publication (which has been around since 1956) and bonappetit.com. All the while a flurry of pastries arrive at her desk in Condé Nast HQ. Starting out as an intern at Time Out Chicago, she went on to become their restaurant critic. Now, her job entails researching the best new restaurants in America, something that sounds pretty ideal. And yet, it turns out you can have too much of a good thing. “I think it sounds more glamorous than it is,” confesses Kramer. “Everyone wants to go out to dinner. No one wants to go to three dinners in one night.”

Born: Chicago

 

Now lives: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY

 

Education: Pomona College in Claremont, CA (history and fiction writing)

 

How long have you worked in your current role: 3.5 years

 

Office: 1 World Trade Center, 36th floor

 

Family: Married for two-and-a-half years to Zachary Kaplan.

 

Coffee: Black, no room for milk.

 

Average emails per day: 150

 

Countries travelled per month: 0 but I travel a lot domestically

 

Alarm: 6:20am

How did you get your start? When I went to college, I discovered Jonathan Gold, the food critic (at that time) for the LA Weekly. I never knew that 'restaurant critic' was a job that you could have, but I loved his writing and thought, hey, I’d like to try that.

 

What did you want to be "when you grew up"? As far as I knew as a child, there were only two job options: doctor and lawyer. My parents were sure I was going to be a lawyer.

 

What do you love most about your job? I love being out in the world and learning people’s stories, whether it’s the chefs behind the “Hot 10” restaurants or the guy in Maine who finds the seaweed for high-end chefs in NYC.

 

Best advice you ever received? Ask for what you want.

 

What would you advise someone today? Send a thank you note.

 

Is there a key piece in your closet essential to your workweek style? Despite my obsession with colors, I have a lot of white shirts. There’s something about a crisp white shirt that makes me feel put together, even if my life is a complete disaster.

 

Describe your desk. I like to keep my desk as clean as I can. And then I have an area off my desk where I keep an unimaginable number of cookbooks.

 

Do people “get” your job? A lot of people think that I have the best job in the world. I think it sounds glamorous than it is. Everyone wants to go out to dinner. No one wants to go to three dinners in one night. (And that’s what I do when I travel.)

 

3 characteristics required to do your job well? Hard work. Humor. Communication.

 

How would you define success? Being happy.

NEW YORK’S TOP SPOTS According to Julia Kramer

Olmsted (an idyllic neighborhood restaurant in Prospect Heights)

 

Le Coucou (chef Daniel Rose's indulgent ode to old-school French cooking)

 

Win Son (Taiwanese-American in Williamsburg)

 

Kopitiam (a Malaysian snack bar on the Lower East Side)

 

Sobakoh (housemade soba noodles in the East Village)