Dame du Jour: Molly Reams Thompson

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Elaine Cicora

When Molly Reams Thompson was posed this challenge several years ago – “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to change how we feed and educate our communities by creating nourishing, nurturing, and engaging environments” – she not only accepted it, she’s embraced it ever since as her life’s work.

Molly is the founder of Feeding Creativity, an organic consulting firm that works with organizations and communities to propel cultural and economic shifts using food as a catalyst. In her “spare” time, she teaches entrepreneurship to Urban Agriculture students at Owens Community College. She also serves as the committee chair overseeing Toledo GROWs, an outreach program of Toledo Botanical Garden, and is working on several exciting food-related projects in and around Northwest Ohio.  Previously, she was the Director of Development for Veggie U, where she achieved one of her proudest professional accomplishments: raising nearly $900,000 in less than three years through partnerships with companies such as Chipotle and Whole Foods.

Food has, in fact, been a central theme throughout Molly’s life. Her earliest childhood memory of food is helping her mother and grandmother in their kitchen when she was only three years old. Growing up, she would continue to help her mom, who threw, as Molly puts it, “outrageous dinner parties with food that looked like it belonged on the cover of Gourmet magazine.”

When Molly was in fifth grade, she started taking French lessons. Her mom told her if she stuck with it, she would take her to France. Her mom made good on her promise. The summer before Molly’s senior year in high school, she traveled to France with her mother and grandmother where, together, they spent three weeks in a cooking school.

“When we got back to the U.S. and for several years after,” says Molly, “I would get paid to make the dessert tarts we’d perfected in that French cooking school. It was a pretty incredible experience I will never forget.”

So it comes as no surprise that Molly went on to earn a BA in French from St. Lawrence University, then eventually an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Now, when she entertains, she loves to gather people together, especially different groups of people. “Last summer we co-hosted a progressive dinner party,” Molly recalls. “The cocktails were at a neighbor’s house. Dinner was served al fresco in our backyard, with little tea lights on the table and along the path. Then dessert was at another neighbor’s house. There were about 20 people, and it was absolutely wonderful!”

As to how she heard of LDEI, she says it was “through Jennifer Brush and Crickett Karson.  I’ve now been a member since 2011.” What does she enjoy most about being a Dame? “I love being around powerful, like-minded women who are up to big/fantastic things.”

Learn more about Molly as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.

What’s your favorite restaurant and what do you usually order there? Walt’s Wharf in Seal Beach, California. I order fresh seafood (whatever they recommend) and a matching wine.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Either cow’s intestine in Prague, or sparrow in China (not much meat going on there), or something that might have been sea urchin in Japan. These are the few times I was actually glad I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know ahead of time what I was eating.

Which one chef would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve?
Perhaps Alice Waters because she has been so inspirational on my food advocacy quest. I would serve all locally sourced and seasonally appropriate foods from local producers and farmers.

Any favorite indulgences?
Jean Mackenzie’s goat cheeses, Jeni’s ice creams, and really good chocolate, cheese, or bread from  Zingerman’s. I also LOVE a good glass (or three) of red wine and am recently enjoying branching out from the typical Napa reds.

What’s your favorite snack?
Stove-cooked popcorn made with coconut oil and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus chopped fresh rosemary and sage. Or a nice square of 72%-85% dark chocolate.

Do you have a signature dish?
Currently, I am known for my simple roasted veggies. But historically, I have been a dessert person. From my cooking school days, I made a tarte aux fruits that was really delicious.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner?
Tacos made with locally sourced/sustainably raised lamb or hamburger, roasted peppers, hand-cooked tortillas, sour cream, sharp white cheddar cheese, lettuce, and salsa. And if we’re not having a yummy (kitchen industry term!) red wine, my husband makes a fantastic daiquiri with fresh-squeezed limes and simple syrup.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without?
Good fats (coconut oil, rendered bacon fat, pastured butter).

Name 3 things that are always in your refrigerator?
Wine (either inside or on top of the fridge, depending on whether it’s white or red), some veggie in season, and cheese.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without.
A great wine opener, a KitchenAid, and SONOS – because I love listening to music while cooking!