Changing menus changing lives
In 2011 I wrote my first article about a new restaurant called Indigenous, helmed by Chef Steve Phelps. That article began with the same quote by Margaret Mead that begins this article and it’s as relevant to Steve Phelps and his endeavors now as it was five years ago.
Perhaps more so, now that the small group of thoughtful, committed citizens looking to change the world has grown exponentially as a result of the collaborative spirit fostered by Chef Steve and his partnerships with Tracy Freeman and the rest of our team at Edible Sarasota, as well as national organizations such as Chef’s Collaborative. Not to mention Chef Steve’s fellow chefs and restaurant owners who have banded together in recent years to change and challenge people’s perceptions and expectations of their food.
After the resounding success of the second annual Trash Fish Dinner that highlighted the necessity of utilizing and celebrating inexpensive and sustainable fish, the idea of a similar event showcasing the importance of responsibly sourced meat seemed a natural encore. Meat Matters featured tantalizing dishes from Indigenous, Drunken Poet, Mattison’s, Louies Modern, The Cottage, Michael’s on East, Artisan Cheese Company, Darwin Brewing, and host restaurant, Made. Mark Woodruff’s Made was recognized specifically at the event, not only for providing the perfect venue but also for striving to make strides with their own menu in terms of selecting humanely raised and sustainable ingredients from vendors such as event sponsors Niman Ranch, Joyce Farms, Turtle Beach Natural Food Service, High Plains Bison, and Geraldson Community Farm.
Guests were treated to small plates of sublimely flavored and creatively conceived meat dishes featuring bison, lamb, beef, pork, and chicken. Chef Evan Gastman of The Cottage wowed with a ramen noodle dish while Chef Paul Mattison of Mattison’s provided a scrumptious bacon jam as a condiment option for bison tenderloin. Chef Mark Woodruff portioned second, third, and (in my case) fourth helpings of his sensational boneless short ribs while his staff tray passed platters of juicy chicken wings. A large screen in the courtyard played short educational films about the mission and vision of Chef’s Collaborative and about the point of Meat Matters.
So, then, what was the point? The point is to open a dialogue between customer and chef and chef and vendor that goes beyond compliments or complaints and becomes a conversation that asks and answers questions, not only about what we’re eating but, more importantly, where it comes from. What matters is that we make choices for the greater good. At this point I’m reminded of another pertinent quote to describe this Edible experience:
“No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
At the end of the day the choices we make can effect change and if we decide that our food matters, that change will almost certainly be a positive one.