Stephen Satterfield is changing the way we tell stories about food
In 2015, a young writer and sommelier named Stephen Satterfield set out to create an outlet for stories about food that you just didn’t see in the media. Stories about the deep ties between land and culture, not just about trendy restaurants or culinary trends. stories told by people from different cultures, on to them. Its selling point would be a beautiful printed magazine, he decided. she named him Whetstone, after the essential tool that chefs use to sharpen knives before they start cooking. The title evoked his focus on the origins.
Like many entrepreneurial publishers, Satterfield launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 to raise $50,000 for the magazine. She still remembers how much potential backers promised: $17,000. Because he hadn’t actually raised the full amount, Kickstarter wouldn’t let him keep the money that fans had offered to donate.
What shows why Stephen Satterfield is on his way to becoming one of the most powerful media figures in the field of food is that he never gave up. As of 2017, he put out new numbers of Whetstone funding permitted, highlighting stories about dried fish from South Korea, chocolate from Mexico, and home cooking in Kyrgyzstan. He has also created short films, such as one about wine in the Republic of Georgia, and produced a podcast with iHeart Radio.
So last year, Satterfield’s vision finally blossomed. And we are not talking about a single flower, but about many.
In 2021, director Roger Ross Williams and Pilgrim Media invited Satterfield to host the Peabody Award-winning event. high on the piga Netflix series tracing the history of African-American culinary customs, based on the 2011 book by Jessica B. Harris with the same title.
In addition to the nine themes that Whetstone has published, all visually sumptuous and compelling, this year Satterfield’s company founded a second magazine, Feel, focused on South Asia. He also launched a podcast network, Whetstone Radio Collective, with a growing number of shows, such as that by Taiwanese journalist Clarissa Wei. climate Kitchen, on climate change and crops such as bananas and malanga. To create additional revenue streams, Whetstone this year began importing textiles and ceramics made by indigenous artisans from Oaxaca. And, five years after that disappointing crowdfunding campaign, Satterfield raised $1.3 million in funding to expand all of these efforts.
“We have never changed our messages,” he says. “We walked out the door, [saying] this is the point of view of the magazine, and we have been loyal to that point of view. Fortunately for us, the world and the culture have changed in a more aligned direction.”
Whetstone and Satterfield’s global vision grew out of a series of formative experiences in food. As a young man, he attended culinary school in Portland, Oregon, where he fell in love with wine and became a sommelier instead of a chef. He was often the only black sommelier in the room, so he traveled to South Africa to meet African viticulturists and found many living hand to mouth on what had been his ancestral land, working for owned companies. of whites. “It really opened my eyes to a universal story about anti-Black racism and the damaging and persistent impacts of colonization,” he says. Once he moved to San Francisco and worked as a manager and sommelier at the popular farm-to-table restaurant Nopa, he started a Tumblr blog to tell the stories of the restaurant’s relationships with farmers and the community at large. . It was the genesis of his mission to Whetstone.
As the publisher, writer and media executive star has risen, Satterfield has consistently called on the food media to recognize that who tells the story matters. The media company owner matters too, when it comes to nurturing talent and training journalists to dig deeper. “Stephen is interested in uplifting other people and using his platform to bring so many people’s voices to life. It’s not just about him,” says Naomi Starkman, founder and publisher of Civil Eats, another independent media company (Satterfield was a storytelling partner on Civil Eats in 2016). “He is trying to create a space for different ideas and different voices.”
“In fact, we can talk about food in a way that understands that crops built empires,” says Satterfield. “That in the United States, plantation agriculture and racialized capitalism [innovated] sugar cane and cotton. That’s not how we talk about food, and it’s a shame. But that is also an opportunity. That’s what our job is really about: making those connections for people.”
With the first round of major funding secured, Satterfield is figuring out where Whetstone can grow next. After years of living in the United States and Mexico, he settled in Atlanta. high on the pig Filming for its second season has begun. Now he wants to find opportunities for the talented writers, podcasters and filmmakers who have helped Whetstone Media flourish, most of whom are women and people of color. “Now I know I can start a business that I own,” she says. “Now I want to know: Can I grow a business?”