Usually when the talk turns to the James Beard Foundation, it is in the spring. The annual James Beard Awards are to chefs, restauratuers, cookbook authors and food writers (and broadcasters) the Oscars of the food world. Of late, the Beard Foundation has gradually become a year-round presence. In selected cities the organization sponsors cooking collaborations and this year, a challenge.
In 10 cities across the country – the closest being Boston – Chef’s Table nights were held this fall. At an additional 100 or so eateries, the Taste America Local Dish Challenge took place during the months of September and October. Chefs at restaurants in major food cities nationwide each created a special dish exclusive to his or her own location that became the Taste America Local Dish. The restaurant ownership then made a pledge to donate one dollar from every dish sold to the Beard Foundation’s Taste America education drive.
The idea is for patrons to visit the restaurant and not only order but photograph the local dish, then post to the social site Instagram. There is a local-pride rooting interest with a single city winning a donation of $10,000, or 10 percent of the proceeds raised nationally – whichever is larger – for a local food charity. Providence is one of a very few participating cities in New England, joining Boston, Portland and Bridgeport.
The local dish at Hourglass Brasserie in Bristol created by chef Rizwan Ahmed was butter-poached lobster with celery, bok choy, beech mushrooms, shrimp ravioli and lobster broth. Rhode Island’s local charity was Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Also representing Rhode Island in the competition was Farmstead on Providence’s East Side where chef and proprietor Matt Jennings squeezed in the competition between a trip to Nantucket to host an event, featuring his passion charcuterie, called HOGtoberfest.