When Sophia Roe began her career 14 years ago, her concerns about access to nutritious food, connecting stories to cuisine, and creating more equitable food systems were largely solitary. As she grew into her role as a chef, however, the industry evolved, and Roe says her voice is thankfully no longer alone as an advocate.
“You can’t treat hunger like a temporary emergency,” Roe says. “Every single weekend, give people food. You have to teach people how to grow it, who grows it, and what to do with it when you get it. As a restaurant cook, I never heard people talking about it. Now, obviously, that’s very different.”
Roe’s television show on Vice TV, Counter Space, which premiered in 2020 and is launching its second season this fall, is a central mechanism she employs to create dialogue centered around compelling food issues, with episodes including the future of farming and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on elementary school lunches. While Roe does indeed cook on camera, Counter Space has been carefully marketed as a food news show—not a cooking show—allowing its star to talk about the issues facing the food system through a multifaceted lens. When telling food news, Roe adds complex layers to the conversation that intersect with race, class, and broader systems, including capitalism itself. This is where the crux of her work is: helping people rethink what they know about food and the integral role it plays in our lives.
“Teaching people about food access is giving people an education,” Roe explains. “I don’t think nutritious food—in any way, shape, or form—reflects the American food system. People always say things are broken, that the food system is broken. Are we sure? Is it broken? It seems like it's working like it was designed. People with money get really nice food. People without money don’t get nice food. What I do is really close that mental loop through conversation.”
By connecting real, newsworthy issues back to food, Roe complicates her audience’s understanding of what’s on their plates. Her smart storytelling, paired with her seamless ability to entertain audiences from behind a cutting board, brings awareness to these issues increasingly to center stage.
While Roe doesn’t position herself as a wellness cook or necessarily think of her work’s primary objective to be healing, she draws connections between her goals of helping people understand what nutritious food is, where it comes from, and how eating nutritious food can be restorative. And, ultimately, Roe thinks returning our food system to more natural sources is the answer.
“When we’re talking about nutritious food, we’re talking about sourcing food from as close to nature as possible,” the chef says. Her call to action to create more just systems of growing and sharing food, requires a substantial transformation of our current food industries. When it comes down to a single plate, though, Roe firmly believes that healing food—which she defines as food that nourishes the mind, body, and/or spirit—is dependent on the individual.
In addition to Counter Space, Roe and her partner Chris Calderon, launched Apartment Miso in November 2021. A culinary studio and creative space filled with Roe’s recipes and stunning food photography, it allows her to share her work in an approachable and engaging way to interact with her followers. To date, Roe has published recipes for strawberry basil ice cream, English muffins, waffle cones, and more through Apartment Miso with plans to continue to use the space to share more of her favorite recipes.
Although still in the works, Roe is currently underway on several additional upcoming projects including a book, future brand collaborations, additional tv projects, events, and media opportunities of which she hopes to share concrete details soon. These near-future projects, combined with Counter Space and Apartment Miso, all dovetail into Roe’s mission to promote a more delicious and equitable food system for all. By approaching each of these projects through her distinct lens focusing on systemic hunger and the future of sustainable food, as well as how those elements intersect with people and cultures, Roe consistently re-centers conversations about food alongside urgent challenges facing the food system.
“Food has become so divisive. What you eat has become a personality,” Roe says. “I don’t have any identity or arrogance about food. It’s not my food. I want to make you what you want to eat because that’s what’s best for you.”