I have been a customer of French Meadow Bakery and Cafe since it first began. I have hosted many events there over the years and always had wonderful experiences with the staff and management. And as an organic vegan, I’ve always appreciated that it’s one of the few places I can have delicious, healthy organic food. As a long-time leader of the organic agriculture and sustainability movements here in Minnesota, the US and around the world, I have worked closely with French Meadow and have been proud of its cutting-edge commitment to organic and leadership within the organic industry. I co-founded the International Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (now the Alliance for Sustainability) 37 years ago and served as its first Executive Director and now volunteer as its President. We have worked closely with French Meadow on various projects and always appreciated their generous support of our community events, in addition to their backing of so many of our progressive partners, such as the work of polar explorer and climate activist Will Steger. I’m deeply saddened by a number of claims that have been made by former employees of French Meadow. I would suggest that people fully understand French Meadow’s perspective. I think they’ll find that so many of the claims against FM are proven false and reprehensible. Other claims, such as sexual harassment and handling of Covid-19, were fully addressed, including immediate firing of the offender and strict adherence to Covid-19 health protocol, respectively. This whole situation could have been, and should be, resolved through respectful dialogue.
I have personally known co-owners Lynn Gordon and Steve Shapiro from the beginning and want to acknowledge them as two of the most committed, passionate, hard-working, creative and cutting-edge people I know in the restaurant and organic industries. They deserve to be treated with respect and gratitude.
I plan to keep eating at French Meadow and supporting its leadership with healthy, organic foods. FM is an important part of our community and not only provides great jobs and healthy, organic food but support for progressive causes. Please support FM any way you can and remember Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi anthem, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Please help keep the longest, continually operating organic bakery in the US open.
I’m proud to say that Lynn Gordon, founder and co-owner of French Meadow Bakery & Café, is my mom. Yes, she’s a real person: a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a friend, an aunt, and a longstanding leader and member of the natural food industry and the Minneapolis uptown community. My mom has worked night and day for over 35 years to provide healthy and organic food and service to the community. She is passionate about her work and the product and service she provides. She is 100% committed to her business and what it stands for. Her approach and demeanor is not always spot-on or conventional, but it all comes from a deeply rooted passion to provide the community with the best possible product and service. It may sound corny, but my respect for her is such that for me, every day is Mother’s Day.
My mom started French Meadow because she was passionate about healthy living, helping people, and making a positive impact on the world. Her own mother died when she was 15 years old of ovarian cancer, which triggered something inside of her to focus on helping others live longer lives through diet and nutrition. When I was very young, she studied Macrobiotics (a healing diet) and became a certified Macrobiotic cooking teacher. She would go to the homes of cancer patients and cook for them, and eventually held Macrobiotic cooking lessons in her own little kitchen. She was a single mom of 3 children trying to educate people and help people live healthier lifestyles and heal from various illnesses. She found that many of her students had allergies to yeast and dairy and could not eat bread, which led to the start of French Meadow Bakery. After intensive study in traditional French artisan baking, she created an organic, yeast free, dairy free, sugar free, oil free bread and became the first certified organic bread bakery in the country. My siblings and I would help my mom bake and package bread in our kitchen and deliver our organic bread to local co-ops in the Twin Cities. My grandpa Bob, who recently passed away and whose photo is displayed as a tribute in the café, also delivered French Meadow bread in his broken-down van that he purchased for $50. French Meadow became my mom’s 4th child. She was, and still is, as dedicated to the concept and business as she is to her own children. Her intention, motivation, and message has never changed or varied. Nor has her hard work: During the first two years of business as French Meadow, my mom even continued to teach the cooking classes in our home two nights a week. Her never-ending commitment was to provide organic, natural, sustainable food to the community and to people all over the country.
Like many driven entrepreneurs, my mom is a creator, innovator, and perfectionist. She expects a lot from herself, from her children, and from all of her employees. As a single female, my mom’s road to success was not easy. She has come across many people who tried to get in her way or who said she was crazy because she meditated, practiced yoga, and ate organic food (all things that are now “trendy” and embraced by many). She is truly a pioneer in the natural food industry and has given so many people who were terminally ill or suffering from severe food sensitivities the opportunity to live healthier lives. Running a restaurant has not been easy, especially in the beginning when her concept was not embraced by most people. She had to fight many battles and work very hard to stay afloat, but was passionate about her mission, determined to provide the community with a place to gather and eat healthy food in a comfortable and welcoming environment.
I share this because I want everyone to know that there is a good person with a good heart behind this business. No social media hate campaign will stop my mom or those who have worked very hard to launch and maintain the business that has supported their own families and the community for so many years. The validation and support we’ve heard from loyal French Meadow customers is overwhelming, and we are very grateful for that now as always. Shame on the people who falsely accuse and share hateful comments on social media in an effort to tarnish and destroy a business and the human beings behind it. Whatever grievance they may or may not have, everyone should know that my mom, while strong and demanding of herself and others, will always listen and try to find the right solutions. Please be kind, and know that there are real people behind French Meadow Bakery & Café / Bluestem Bar who continue to work every day to bring the healthiest, highest quality food to our beloved community.
The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers…and that the center of the universe is really everywhere and in all of us.” - Black Elk (Oglala Sioux)
I’ve known Lynn Gordon and Steve Shapiro for decades, and not only can I attest to their commitment to organic, sustainably and locally grown food, but they – the two owners of French Meadow Bakery & Cafe/Bluestem Bar – have provided steadfast support for the work of Continuum Center, whose work is very much about equity, diversity, and putting actions behind the words “Black Lives Matter.” In fact Lynn and Steve helped underwrite a fundraiser in their Nord Social Hall including many of the young men of color who have benefitted from (and now help teach) Continuum Center’s programming, which helped close the achievement gap at North High in Minneapolis. Working with North High’s varsity basketball team, Continuum’s curriculum there helped the team go from worst to first to state champions, and achieve a 95% graduation rate with 75-80% of the team on the school A/B honor roll.
In addition to support for the fundraiser, French Meadow gave Continuum Center space for an exhibit on the interconnectedness of life, featuring teachings of Native American, East Indian, Asian, South American, and African Elders alongside those of physicists, biochemists, and neuroscientists. The North High “athleaders” Lynn and Steve supported spent an afternoon at Nord Social Hall writing about this exhibit so graciously hosted by French Meadow.
That someone would claim that either Lynn or Steve is racist is a slanderous distortion. Furthermore, that someone would distort the fact that once in a while French Meadow - like every restaurant - has to make an emergency run to the nearest grocery store, turning it into an insinuation that it is routine practice and that there is no organic track record or ongoing commitment, is slanderous. As far as I know, FMB has never claimed to have a 100% organic menu.
People need to be held accountable for claims they make that are not supported by all the facts. Lynn and Steve have been losing money since the COVID-19 crisis but they have kept French Meadow open. They are community-minded and have a history of being so. If a senior manager made inflammatory comments, I’m sure it has since been appropriately addressed.
Thank you Lynn and Steve.
Jane Barrash is a teacher, human development coach, filmmaker, and Executive Director of Continuum Center, where she has worked for 30 years with internationally known physicists, physicians, brain scientists, biochemists, psychologists, mathematicians, space scientists, and cultural leaders to design a program for maximizing human capacities and leadership development. Continuum Center was founded in 1979 to explore the nature of consciousness, human capacity, and the continuity and interconnectedness of life.