5 Questions for an Eater Entrepreneur: Eli Iaslovits
Eater values continue to rapidly evolve while the food industry scrambles to keep up. Students are a critical group driving this change: they are tomorrow’s leadership, future householders, and newly-independent eaters. Increasingly focused on matters of sustainability and social justice, they often express these values through food.
At Food Sol, we see daily how the tools of entrepreneurship apply to both food entrepreneurs creating new options for the marketplace and eater entrepreneurs creating change for their plates.
Eli Iaslovits is a second year undergraduate student at Babson College. His interview originally appeared on Examiner.com.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your food journey.
A: I never thought of myself as having a food journey, so I really had to reflect on this one… When my brothers and I were little, my grandfather worked in a deli and he’d let us behind the counter and give us slices of salami and we’d interact with the customers. At the same time, my grandmother worked at a local donut shop, and so we’d do pretty much the same thing in her store. It was great.
My grandmother was known for her home cooking. Her noodle kugel I remember. My dad used to say that when he married my mom, he gained 20 pounds! My dad’s business is in food distribution, so that was where I first got interested in food as entrepreneurship. It goes so far back in our family. When I started to look into my grandfather’s history, I found out that besides the delis in Miami, he’d worked in small markets in New York and was actually the chef on Israel’s first cruise ship!
Q: To what extent are your food choices and purchases reflective of your personal values? Would you share a couple of what those values are?
A: There is some, if not a lot of truth to the old saying: “You are what you eat.” Today, it takes a bit of investigating and patience to know where your food actually comes, to know what’s actually in it. I do my best to know exactly what it is I’m consuming, and sometimes that takes a bit more time than anticipated.
Growing up, I was always taught to ask questions, to not accept the way things are just because they are. I’m inquisitive, I want to have control and know that I’m doing things for the right reasons and doing them the right way, and my food purchases are a perfect reflection of that.
Q: “Eating is an inherently entrepreneurial act.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
A: In my first year at Babson, I learned that entrepreneurship is largely about emotional intelligence, and that building emotional intelligence is a long experiential process. You have to go through trial and error, then reflect, then learn and grow. In this sense, eating is absolutely entrepreneurial. You have to pay attention to your food as much as you pay attention to your development as an entrepreneur – know what you are eating, how it affects you, learn about where and why it came from wherever it came from, and then continue to build your relationship with food. “Act, learn, Build” as they like to say in FME.
Q: Given all that you’re learning about entrepreneurship, what entrepreneurial actions or decisions have you made when it comes to your meal planning at Babson?
A: It’s all about time management and planning for the unexpected. There is little time to spare at Babson, so planning ahead is key to meal planning. For example, my friends and I use the kitchen in our residence hall common room to cook a lot of food for the week. You can get as creative as your desire and budget allow you and be confident that you’ll have quality food during your busy week. That being said, challenges are more than likely to infringe on your desired eating habits, and you have to be willing to adapt, or innovate.
Q: Do you feel that through food, you have agency in effecting the food system? How so?
A: Yes, absolutely. Think about all the food movements, all the networks of people, who changed the food system just by demanding to eat what wasn’t on the industrial food menu. The organic movement, the Paleo movement, the Slow Food movement… All they had to do was not eat what was offered. Not that effecting change on a large scale is easy, but it’s inspiring to know that every time I choose to cook for myself, or buy from a farmer instead of a grocery store, I am making a difference.