The mood around the tables ranged from excited to anxious. In a blind taste test, our Food Leaders fellows had tried various sugar alternatives, and the vote was about to begin. Only one person remained at ease.

Javier Larragoiti was confident in his product. The founder and CEO of Xilinat knew it was the only option that could go toe-to-toe with refined sugar itself. The votes were counted, and option D was deemed the winner. Testers described it as sweet without being cloying and lacking a metallic aftertaste.

But which was D, the crowd exclaimed. Javier smiled—it was Xilinat.

These are the kinds of experiences shared by our fellows at their gathering in Mexico City. Bonding ran fast and deep around the seminar table and at temporary tattoo parlors in Coyoacán. Fellows encouraged one another to take risks whether that meant changing careers or sampling fried scorpions at San Juan Market.

By coming together outside their typical work spaces, fellows build intimacy and friendship. Deep conversations have already made way for professional collaborations. Visiting funders and advisors sound out impact projects during action plan sessions.

Women sitting on a couch talking

On their last night together, fellows watched renowned Mexican chef Margarita Carrillo make a fresh green mole at a teaching kitchen called Sobremesa. While the word literally means “over the table,” it has no English translation. Sobremesa describes the time after a meal has ended but guests linger around the table to relax and speak openly.

“I can’t think of a better word to describe how I left feeling after days of thoughtful, vulnerable, and insightful conversation,” fellow Delia Johnson wrote. “This is a table full of food leaders who I have no doubt will solve many of the issues in today’s food system.”