We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Leoni and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Danielle, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career? Every decision comes with the risk of complete failure. Nonetheless, we don’t let that stop us from living – leaving our house, learning something new, finding work, traveling or forming relationships. If you choose not to fully engage in life you miss taking risks personally and professionally. You’re basically answering no to yourself and to everything in life. Teaching yourself to move into the space of uncertainty moves you closer to a yes in life and is the recipe for happiness. I say take the road less traveled. Heck, even make your own road. I attribute my success to following my inspiration. Moving in a direction without previous footsteps to follow can be seen as scary, but makes it equally as easy to forge a path uniquely suited for you. The success of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar opened in 2008 then Big Marble Organics in 2020 all rest on what I’ve learned from taking the risk of following my gut instinct. I didn’t have experience in the restaurant or the carbonated beverage industry. I had no roadmap for success and found taking the road less traveled has much richer rewards. To find the reward meant putting myself on the line. I learned not to cling tightly to what I planned but used it as a springboard to pivot. Reinventing The Breadfruit & Rum Bar was how the restaurant lived to succeed for over a decade. Each time the restaurant model was reassessed and reinvented there was the risk of being turned down by our customers or possibly striking the winning combination. There was nothing more that I wanted than for The Breadfruit & Rum Bar to succeed. Without putting myself on the line would have risked not achieving my dream. Taking personal and professional risk came again with the inspiration to make ginger beer. Years were spent perfecting the recipe of Big Marble Ginger Beer. Finally having a recipe, production method and bottling line ready my world unexpectedly turned upside down by breaking out into a pandemic. At the risk of launching too early, Big Marble Ginger Beer debuted in June 2020 against all odds. Waiting for the perfect time for anything is unrealistic. In fact, the perfect anything depends on the feedback that you receive from others and the critical lessons learned by moving forward that ultimately enables you to succeed. In order to succeed there are countless times the chance of making a mistake is taken. Mistakes need to be made to succeed in life – it’s how we learn. If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not trying enough things. Before Big Marble and The Breadfruit & Rum Bar I was a yogi die hard. I got involved with The Breadfruit & Rum Bar by helping out, then quickly committed full time to do whatever task was at hand, to taking over the kitchen and finally evolving into an acclaimed Chef. Think about the gap in career path between being a yogi to being a professional Chef. It’s so vast that I died countless deaths of my ego, pushed my physical limits and was reborn into someone who finds solace in the fact that the only constant in life is change. Taking risks hasn’t stopped for me and never will. It’s impossible to avoid such an elemental part of life. Once becoming comfortable with trial and error you realize that without failure, there’s no success. Some say I took another risk as I shifted my focus from being a Chef to a Chef Advocate using my profession to create a better food system. Traditionally, a Chef’s place is in the kitchen, not behind a podium proclaiming her opinion on achieving social, ecological and economic sustainability via food. I risked putting myself out there and being judged by my colleagues, clients, friends and family because I was compelled from deep in my heart to use my power as a Chef to effect positive change. Everyone hates being judged regardless of the fact that we do it all the time to others and that we are being judged all the time. I think it’s important to put yourself out there to be judged because in the end it only comes down to some words someone may say to you. Words can be managed but if you don’t put yourself out there you risked the opportunity to manage being happy. I see my life a being a collection of start-ups. Reinventing myself from yogi to Chef, teaching myself how to run a restaurant, putting it all on the line to explore the world of carbonated beverages, trading my comfort zona as Chef to become a good food advocate all have come with great reward and oh-so-many risks. I admit that I don’t know what will be required next for me to achieve my idea of success. I realize that you have to risk not being perfect, not knowing 100%, being vulnerable and following your inspiration if you want to experience the deepest level of success possible. That’s knowing that you didn’t shy away from living life to the fullest.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My inspirations always have to do with food and in turn all of my professional endeavors. I’ve come to vividly realize the power of one and the power of many. Alone I am one consumer, one chef, one restaurant owner, one beverage maker, one activist and one believer in a better future for all. Standing in my power and living my inspiration shows others how much good can be done by just one person and inspires many in innumerable ways. At The Breadfruit & Rum Bar our food is a way to bring immediate joy to people and in the long run it is a way to earn trust from them so they too can see the wonderful impact they have on the world when they eat responsibly. Big Marble Organics is yet another way to help folks enjoy their day to day while knowing their being kind to planet. Creating organizations that source responsibly, treat their teams with integrity and inspire others to be the best version of themselves is a manifestation of my personal beliefs. I’ve learned that when doing what you know is right in your heart you will be rewarded. If a business model is going to work then it has to be sustainable – that’s financially, ecologically and socially. Learning that you can do right by the planet and it’s people while turning a profit came after years of getting to know who was growing my food, responsibly sourcing or crafting with integrity. Knowing that I can move global issues forward that cannot be moved on my own by aligning with others who are also doing right by the world is my daily inspiration to overcome life’s challenges.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m a huge fan of the downtown Phoenix area. Here’s a list of some spots I frequent and definitely recommend you to visit in no particular order: Eat & Drink: Cibo – great patio and polpette and crepes Larder & Delta – fried chicken and oysters The Farish House – braised shortribs and wine in a cool historic house Songbird Coffee & Tea House – best salted chocolate chip cookie and espresso spritzer Bianco’s – magarita pizza Bitter & Twisted – themed cocktails and great bar food Little Rituals – city view and creative cocktails AZ Wilderness – burger and beer Taco Chelo – beans and margaritas The Duce – vintage american eats Gallo Blanco – pozole and the Gallo margarita In Perfetto – gelato and italian bites The Churchill – lots of choices for casual eats and drinks Crescent Ballroom – tacos and live music Fairtrade Cafe – best no bake chocolate chip peanut butter cookie Grand Avenue PIzza – best single slice pizza FoundRE: Hotel – lounging, eating and drinking To Do: Walk downtown Phoenix from 7th steet to 7th ave between McDowell and Jefferson FInd our murals and enjoy! Japanese Friendship Garden – peaceful garden and giant Koi pond Civic Space Park – cool giant handing piece of artwork and green space Downtown Phoenix Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 8-12 – people watching, coffee, breakfast, snacks, music and so much more! FilmBar – indie theater with lounge Arizona Science Center Heritage Park Children’s Museum Orpheum Theater Heard Museum Desert Botanical Garden
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The thrill of this journey has been by the grace of folks from my Arizona community and across the nation. Closest to home has been Dwayne Allen who has over the past 12 years had an incalculable influence on my success as our journeys ran parallel to each other’s. As for a mentor, it is Grand Master Teacher Michael Leone who has practiced martial and healing arts for 40 years. As my mentor and my uncle, he taught me the fundamentals of perseverance through practicing mindfulness. He encouraged me to build a foundation of discipline, loving kindness and presence that guided my career as a Chef, entrepreneur and advocate for a better food system. In my culinary community I was most impacted by the folks I befriended over the years at the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market. I learned from them what “good food” meant by understanding how they grew or made food responsibly. All these factors came together to develop my perspective on food as delicious, beautiful, precious and life changing. I must give thanks to the countless local media outlets who magnified my good food mantra across Arizona for the past decade and The James Beard Foundation for amplifying my work nationally.

Website: @thebreadfruit.com @bigmarble.com
Instagram: @thebreadfruit.com @chefdanielleleoni @bigmarble.com
Twitter: @thebreadfruit @danielleleoniaz
Facebook: @thebreadfruit @danielleleoni

Image Credits
Whole fried fish: Kavan Lake Fish in carrot sauce: Jeffery Gurwin Rum and dessert: Dwayne Allen Chef Danielle Leoni under fish: Dwayne Allen

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