Celebrating and Honoring our Food Heroes

FOOD HERO / fo͞od hirō / 

A person you admire who has affected your relationship with food in a meaningful way.


Dear Friends,

I’m a huge fan of books about food.  My favorite food writers, A.J. Liebling, Ruth Reichl and MFK Fisher to name a few, seem to have experienced lives rich with adventure and taste. They are explorers, travelers, storytellers and scientists, always looking for the next great meal. I think of them as food heroes; people who implore us to find something exceptional in the foods we eat, who invite us to their tables for sharing and listening, all fueled by the power of good food and good company.

My own personal food hero is my dad, Eugene (pictured). Growing up my mom was a lousy cook. It was through no fault of her own, cooking was just not something she enjoyed. Mystery meatloaf, fish sticks and mock chicken legs were highlights in her recipe repertoire. When she went away one week, my dad took over the kitchen and everything changed. My brother, sister and I were eating stuffed pork chops, roast chicken with mashed potatoes, beef stew, pineapple upside down cake with cherries in the center -we were smitten! Soon my dad was cooking for baby showers, housewarmings, birthday parties, reunions and holidays.  His dishes were never elaborate or complicated - they were simple and delicious. For my dad, cooking was always about family and friends and creating something special from simple things for the people you love. 

Wayside's Food Heroes are those folks that believe food can bring people together and that sharing food creates strong connections. This season, we invite you to think about your own food heroes and to celebrate them and all that that they do. And please, share your own food hero stories with us!

Mary Zwolinski
Executive Director
Wayside Food Programs



Your Hero Stories, Your Food Traditions

Connie Ortolani


"When I was thinking about my food hero, I had all sorts of great things about my Mom and all these stories about being Greek, but I realized the person that's really affected me the most was my husband. He passed away three and a half years ago in an accident. He was the rock of the family. He was also a great cook. His lasagna was amazing. And he was great at barbequing for the family. But the best part was, he would cook me breakfast on the weekend. I always got to choose what I wanted. We both let work go and just sit, sometimes on our deck, watching the birds and sometimes just in our kitchen. Those weekends were ours. I just can't stop thinking about that." Read Connie's full story.


John Romano


"I grew up around food. My family lived on Munjoy Hill and my grandparents owned a neighborhood grocery store where I had my first job. I went to culinary school and my entire career was at Maine Medical Center in the Nutrition Department, making food for people. Now that I am retired, I volunteer at Wayside in the kitchen working with volunteers to prepare food for the community meals. Not to mention, I'm Italian American and we have a love affair with food. Over the years, between my family and the executive chefs and managers I've worked for, I've had a lot of influences and people whom I respect. Someone who particularly sticks out though was Eleanor Gee, or Mrs. Gee as we called her, the woman who hired me when I was 15 at Maine Medical Center, where I ended up working for 53 years." Read John's full story.