I feel like I’ve talked a good bit about what makes a thriving culinary scene. Sure, it’s imperative to have great restaurants. Talented chefs, you betcha. Bustling cities, no doubt. But what makes the culinary scene, where we are blessed to live, so special, is the brotherhood and sisterhood that is becoming more and more evident and that was very clear at a recent Local Industry supper this past Sunday. I was actually so excited to be a part of it. It’s something that mr. foodie and I have often talked about…with a twist and one day, if the chefs are on board, I’ll let you all in on our idea…until then, my lips are sealed (sorry).
There were about 100 restaurant industry folks there and it felt positively inner circle…and in a way it kind of was…but at the heart of it was community in all the right ways. Front of house staff, back of house staff, beverage pros and farmers…all gathered together to cook, talk about the past and upcoming weeks and generally just enjoying food and fellowship, after a hectic week that is the food business.
Organizer John Bobby, who’s the chef at Roosters, A Noble Grille in Winston-Salem, says it’s the second event of hopefully many…all to be held at an area farm so that those in the industry can get to know one another and the farmer in particular. “This is a very progressive kind of event that’s happening in a lot of cities. It’s a way for us to fellowship and break bread.” Bobby says he didn’t just limit the invitations to Winston-Salem chefs and extended invites to chefs from all over the Triad. “I wanted to include as many people as I could. We’re a community….if we didn’t get together and collaborate, it would simply be competitive. Or we’d see each other out and about and just say, ‘hey’, but we should really strive to support one another. And support the farmers and purveyors who provide for us.”
The theme was a Crawfish Boil and everyone was encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share. And one thing you’ll get from folks who work in kitchens or farms is some truly delicious eats. And some fun stuff that you don’t normally see in restaurant kitchens, like Ham Hock Terrine with pickled okra and pepper jelly. Or a Carolina Cassoulet thrown together by Chef Jeff Bacon of Providence Kitchen from remnants of smoked sausage, chicken confit and beans. Not to mention a straight up rustic boil with taters and corn and crawfish thrown on a table. There were kids activities too and many a crawdad kept the little ones busy along with some other outdoor fun… and mud pies.
Bobby says that changing it up every month and visiting different farms helps increase the awareness of what our local farms are doing. Mitchell Britt, owner of Krankies Coffee in downtown Winston-Salem and Krankies Downtown Farm, host of the event, says having a farm is just another step in a direction he feels they’ve always been headed. “When we decided to take Krankies to the next level and open our kitchen up for daily service, we decided then that we couldn’t do that unless we intended to grown much of our own food.” Britt and his team farm on three acres in a mixed area of residences and businesses in West Salem. There, Krankies farm is growing herbs, lettuce, greens, fennel, tatsoi, just to name a few. There are wildflowers, sunflowers, buckwheat…and it’s all thriving with life and bees and ladybugs and all things that any farm needs. Did you know you ca actually order ladybugs from Amazon? The things you learn from urban farmers 😉
Krankies Downtown Farm is one of the first of its kind to receive an urban agricultural permit and likely will become a model for other urban farms like it. Britt says, “It’s really a labor of love, with multi-faceted benefits. One day we want to be able to get this particular farm to the point where we might be able to donate it and it can then be a community farm.”
At the event, speaking with farmers and chefs who not only buy from them, but also work the fields with them, it’s so interesting to see how cyclical things can be. As mr. foodie pointed out, a generation or two ago, many of our parents or grandparents couldn’t wait to get away from the farm and get to the city and now we’re seeing more and more, an appreciation for farming and the land and knowing where our food comes from. Even more ironic is now, the farm has come to the city.
And people are loving it.
Where’s your favorite farm? Do you have one in your city?