Winter Words: The Art of Food Writing co-sponsored by Aspen Words and the Food & Society Program

March 16, 2021  • Aspen Words

Four stars of the culinary world discuss how food writing illuminates culture and history, providing a sense of home and place in a visceral, sensual way. Featured panelists include Padma Lakshmi (“LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT WE ATE”), Ronni Lundy (“VICTUALS: AN APPALACHIAN JOURNEY, WITH RECIPES”) and Toni Tipton-Martin (“JUBILEE: RECIPES FROM TWO CENTURIES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN COOKING”).

Moderator: Dawn Davis, editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit magazine.


Padma Lakshmi is an Emmy-nominated food expert, television producer, host and The New York Times best-selling author.

She is the creator of the critically acclaimed Hulu series “Taste the Nation,” nominated for a 2021 Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series, which has just been greenlit for a second season. Lakshmi serves as host and executive producer of Bravo’s two-time Emmy-winning series “Top Chef,” which has been nominated for 32 Emmys, including her two-time nomination for Outstanding Host for A Reality-Competition Program. Its new season will be premiering in spring 2021.

Lakshmi is co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) and an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Artist Ambassador for immigrants’ rights and women’s rights. Lakshmi was also appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

She established herself as a food expert early in her career, hosting two successful cooking shows: “Padma’s Passport,” and “Planet Food” and writing the best-selling “Easy Exotic,” which won the Best First Book award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Lakshmi followed this with the publication of her second cookbook, “Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet” and her memoir The New York Times best-selling “Love, Loss and What We Ate.” She later published “The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs.” In August of 2021 she will publish her first children’s book “Tomatoes for Neela.”

Additionally, Lakshmi is a visiting scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has received the 2018 Karma Award from Variety, as well as the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Born in Corbin, Kentucky, Ronni Lundy has chronicled the people of the hillbilly diaspora as a journalist and a cookbook author. Her books include “Shuck Beans,” “Stack Cakes,” and “Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens,” “Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from a Southern Garden,” and “Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes.” She is the former restaurant reviewer and music critic for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, former editor of Louisville Magazine, and she contributes to many national magazines. Gourmet magazine recognized “Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken” as one of six essential books on Southern cooking.

In 2017, Lundy received a James Beard Award for her book, “Victuals.” In 2009, she received the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance.

You can find her current musings at Our State Magazine and Oxford American.

Toni Tipton-Martin is a culinary journalist and author using cultural heritage and cooking to build community. She is Editor in Chief of Cook’s Country by America’s Test Kitchen and a two-time James Beard Award winner for her books on African American cooking. Toni’s latest book, “Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking,” brings to life 125 dishes from the African American cookbooks in her rare collection through breath-taking photography and engaging storytelling. Jubilee is a James Beard Award winner, earned the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Book of the Year Award, and was named one of the “Cookbooks You Need for 2020” by the New York Times. Jubilee is the follow-up to “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks,” which The New Yorker named one of the “Best cookbooks of the Century So Far.” For this celebration of the important legacy of African American cooks and their cookbooks, Toni received a 2016 James Beard Book Award, the 2016 Art of Eating Prize, and a 2015 Certificate of Outstanding Contribution to Publishing from the Black Caucus of the Library Association.

Toni was the first African American Food Editor of a major daily newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the nutrition writer for the Los Angeles Times, and a contributing editor to Heart and Soul Magazine. She is a co-founder and former president of both Southern Foodways Alliance and Foodways Texas. Toni is profiled in the 35th Annual Aetna African American History Calendar and a member of the Advisory Board for Oldways’ African Heritage Diet Pyramid. She has been a featured speaker at book festivals, libraries, museums, universities and multiple food organizations.


Dawn Davis is the editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit. A veteran of the publishing world, prior to moving to BA, Davis worked in book publishing for over 25 years and published several award-winning and New York Times best-selling books, including “Heads of the Colored People” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, winner of a 2019 Whiting Award; the National Book Award finalist “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar; “The Known World,” winner of a Pulitzer in fiction by Edward P. Jones; “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For” by Ambassador Susan Rice; “The Butler: A Witness to History” by Wil Haygood; “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae; “I Can’t Make This Up” by Kevin Hart and “The Pursuit of Happyness” by Chris Gardner.

She was named the 2019 Editor of the Year by Poets & Writers. Her first issue of Bon Appétit will be on stands in March.

This Aspen Words Winter Words event is in collaboration with Aspen Institute’s Food and Society.

Food and Society at the Aspen Institute brings together public health leaders, policymakers, researchers, farmers, chefs, food makers, and entrepreneurs to find practical solutions to food system challenges and inequities. The common goal is to help people of all income levels eat better and more healthful diets—and to enjoy them bite by bite.