THE FOUNDER OF GASTRO GNOME, SHANNON WATERS, SHARES HOW SHE CAME TO APPRECIATE THE OUTDOORS AND SUPPORT VETERANS IN HER OWN WORDS BELOW.
I’ve been asked multiple times why my business, which is not veteran-owned or affiliated, supports multiple active duty and veteran-focused nonprofits. What ties us so strongly to this kind of support? The answer is so simple — without the work and sacrifice of so many others who have stepped forward to serve our country, I wouldn’t be able to serve you food. I am able to do what I do every day because brave men and women have chosen to serve our country. For me, the question is not ‘why’ Gastro Gnome Meals supports veterans, it’s a question of ‘how?’
I firmly believe and have seen from my own experience that the wilderness provides a path to healing and peace, but that didn’t come easily. My life as a fine-dining chef between New York City and San Francisco didn’t afford me a lot of downtime, and, definitely not in nature. Fueled by stress and intense pressure to perform, I finally reached a breaking point where my physical and mental health refused to let me continue down that path. I started my first business, launching other folks’ restaurant dreams into fruition, giving myself month-long stints between restaurant openings to wind down and get deep into the wilderness. The time spent recouping in the woods is where Gastro Gnome was born. As I ventured further into the backcountry, I needed a way to feed myself with real, nutritious, and thoughtfully prepared food, but unfortunately, it didn’t exist. So my options were to keep my trips down to just a night or two or make my own packable food so I could go deeper. Fast forward a couple of years (three, to be exact) and Gastro Gnome sold its first freeze-dried meal, meant to keep you satiated and thoughtfully nourished, wherever you end up. Settling for limited experiences or false-food weren’t options for me. Fueling adventures so that people could experience the beauty and peace of the backcountry and feel good was an option.
Now, if a little bit of that can be gifted to someone who has earned it for all of us, I want to be an active agent in making sure it happens. Warriors & Quiet Waters carries that opportunity to their participants in a way that can create a lifelong impact. I feel grateful to fuel their time in the outdoors as they discover what so many of us have found and love out there — healing, a quiet mind, and inspiration.