3-Course Interview: Joel Hitchcock-Tilton | 3-Course Interview | Gambit – New Orleans News and Entertainment

Proud to say that two of the three chefs in the Paradigm Gardens worked with me at MarketUmbrella as staff during each of their transitional periods to running their own kitchens. Both are absolutely committed to regional products and working as partners with their producers. Glad to see this being attempted by this smart group.

Best quote:

Urban farming and growing vegetables is in no way very lucrative, unfortunately. There are a number of great nonprofits and community gardens in the city but it’s not a great business model. We put about $25,000 of our own money into building and maintaining everything here. So we thought about how we could make it work. The idea was to create a functioning, sustainable plan for an urban garden. So we came up with the idea of the concert series and have started using the space for events. We’ll be doing field trips with kids; we’ve had some art gallery and food truck nights and people can rent the space if they want for any type of event, including weddings or parties…

Source: 3-Course Interview: Joel Hitchcock-Tilton | 3-Course Interview | Gambit – New Orleans News and Entertainment


10 Things I Hate: Chris Hastings

From Food Republic:

Life is filled with wonderful things and terrible things. During interviews, however, we pretty much only get to hear about the wonderful things. Ten Things I Hate is a chance for people in the food world to get things off their chest. We ask them what they hate, they give us a list. Next up: Birmingham chef Chris Hastings.

10 Things I Hate: Chris Hastings | Food Republic.

Chef gives back Louisiana farming community – CSMonitor.com

(Another story about a New Orleans chef!)
Huge fan of John Besh and his amazing team. There is no question he has put his money back in the community and has done amazing work.
I will say (and certainly not meant as criticism to Chef Besh and his team) that even with this excellent help, many farmers here still lack the full resources to increase their capacity. Since sustainable agriculture advocates are few and support for sales outside of the city are quite limited, many still falter with the expansion of their business. Business assistance must be matched with policy changes on production and regional connections that diversify each farm appropriately, since it is important that every farmer is not led only to intermediate and wholesale sales as their big expansion opportunity.
Still, there is no question that his foundation is a huge step in the right directional our region’s producers.

CSM Story and link:

The Foundation’s most recent initiative selects local farmers to provide with financial loans, while also delivering valuable training in marketing and business strategy. Many regional farmers have delicious products, the Foundation shares, but lack the finances or business knowledge to market those products to a wider audience. Working with Hope Credit Union, the Foundation evaluates loan applications and designs customized repayment plans. Then, MBA candidates from Tulane University’s Net Impact business advisory program, support loan recipients in setting goals and creating a long-term business plan.

Loans ranging from US$1,000 to US$20,000 are available to farmers within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans. Acknowledging the challenges farmers face in acquiring loans from traditional sources, Besh has yet to set a limit on the number of recipients. “The more we lend the better it is for these guys and gals out working to produce all the wonderful products that make my life wonderful,” Besh said. “We hope to do as many as possible.”

Chef gives back Louisiana farming community – CSMonitor.com.

Oxford Canteen

My pal Corbin Evans has made his way (going the long way from New Orleans to Philly to Brooklyn and maybe a few other stops in there since) to Oxford, Mississippi. His new lunch place there with seasonal locally sourced products is a hit this summer, which is no surprise as he is an award-winning chef and a well-liked guy everywhere he goes. He served as the Board President of Market Umbrella in New Orleans after the federal levee breaks and did tons of other unheralded support work around town to build food producers and so I was able to work with him throughout all of his New Orleans years. Chefs like Corbin are willing to give support to farmers markets in many ways and should be invited to assist whenever possible.
I think of him as a little brother while at the same time, as a teacher and leader in sustainable regional food production. This is a lovely film from the great Southern Foodways Alliance detailing his latest effort. Do take a road trip to Oxford and the Delta to see it for yourself anyway and make sure to stop and see Corbin in his alley. You’ll like him.

Oxford Canteen from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

On Being a Boss: Kristen Essig Takes Over at Sainte Marie – Eater Interviews – Eater NOLA

Below, is a link to an interview with a New Orleans chef who has embedded local purchasing into the very DNA of her kitchen.

The day I met Kristen was the day (2002? 2003?) that she interviewed to be our Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM) Tuesday/Thursday market manager. She came to the interview with a slate of ideas and opinions backed up with a vitality that could not be denied. We were surprised that someone with her fine dining experience (and obvious ambition) wanted to work for our little organization, but she explained that she wanted to know all facets of the food system.
During her tenure, she can be credited with building our Green Plate Special program, which allows restaurants to come for a full month of Tuesdays to sell plate lunches to the shoppers at the CCFM and, of course, allows those chefs to understand the farmers and fishers better and to have long stretches to watch market vending in person.

As a chef, she came with a “shoot from the hip” framework and never stopped running the entire time she worked with us. Like anyone who has worked on the line at top restaurants, she was intimidating to some but we knew that she always led with what was in the best interest of our farmers and fishers. Through her, we understood the psyche of the chef better and started to realize that we should get to know the sous chefs and line cooks that were more often at the market and were on their way to the top position. Many of those have now become leaders of their own restaurant (why, like our friend Kristen Essig!) and almost all have become fierce supporters of those markets.

“As a line cook, you develop a relationship with vendors as they come in the back door, but actually working with the vendors at the market was a totally different thing. You’re working, really, with 20 small businesses, and they’re all trying to make certain quotas, and they all have certain amounts of product that they have to move. You develop strong relationships with these people—you learn that they have bills to pay, whose kid needs braces, etc.”

On Being a Boss: Kristen Essig Takes Over at Sainte Marie – Eater Interviews – Eater NOLA.