The Power of Food

Dearly beloved, every week we gather together here to discuss, of course, food. We’ve discussed more than a couple of times that people like to stay in the know. What’s hot, what’s new and what’s good in the neighborhood. Along with that, we’ve also shared plenty of time talking about the changing face of our city. Not only physically, but culinarily. Things are moving along here in lil’ ol’ Savannah. Not everyone is entirely comfortable with some of the change we are seeing around here, but that’s more than OK. As my dad used to say, that’s why God created colors.

In between all of the openings, new chefs, menus and the ballyhoo that comes along with all of that, we’ve been noticing something else going on with Savannah’s food scene. Sometimes I find it fascinating, other times you can’t help but get excited. Still other times, I just shake my head. Truth is, there are enough food-related events in this city now-a-days to make your head spin. Is that a good thing? Frankly, I’m not sure I know the answer to that question.

I make a point of this because we haven’t even gotten out of February yet and already the number of food-related events that have either already happened or are in the planning stages by far exceed anything I can remember in recent years. Yes, Coastal Georgia has always been good for an oyster roast for charity or a chili cook-off for a good cause, but that’s just the beginning of what we’ve seen so far in 2017. Since January 1st we’ve seen a “Hot Chocolate Festival” with a few participants. We’ve seen a “Soup Competition” with a few more. Coming up there are plans for a “taco/margarita challenge” in May and a “Burger Festival” being put together by Chatham County Parks and Recreation. Believe it or not, there is also a “Red Velvet Cake Festival” to be held at a local funeral home. Yeah, from my seat, that one definitely takes the cake. Get it? Cake?

Now, before anyone takes offense and thinks that I am making light of these events, I’m really not. The aforementioned soup competition raised over $30,000 for a local charity. And there were only 4 soups to enjoy. By all accounts that event was a huge success with plans already being made for next year with (hopefully) a few more soups in the charity pot.

That, however, raises an interesting point. More than once Eat It and Like It has been asked to help recruit local chefs or restaurants to participate in area charitable events. Those requests continue to grow at a much faster rate than the number of new restaurants. What does that mean? Well, the same chefs are being asked to participate in an increasing number of events. No chef will admit to this, because they all want to help whenever they can, but the more they are asked to donate either food or their time the more the requests begin to blur together. We’ve got to understand, they do want to help if they can, but I am confident enough to say the number of times they are able to help pales in comparison to the number of requests they get.

The bigger named chefs in other cities? They have standard request forms on their websites. All requests for charity must be submitted in writing. And yes, they usually ask for proof that a charity is going to benefit. I can speak for myself when I say I am very unlikely to participate in an event unless donations to charity are involved. I’m not saying I haven’t done it otherwise, but the instances are becoming less and less.

It’s also very important to note that this is Savannah, Georgia. A city that rallies for charity unlike any I have ever seen. I’ve mentioned that here a few times as well. You pair fundraising with food and it’s a perfect match. Food is a universal language. Food brings people together. If the food is of high enough quality, food will get people to open up their wallets. This has been proven time and time again. Not only here, but across America.

Too often though, and it’s important to stress not all of the time, I’m seeing efforts to raise money that are not paying enough attention to the calendar. Just last Fall I had to remind one fundraiser that they were planning their food-related event on a huge night during the Savannah Food and Wine Festival.  Annnd how many chefs were you looking to get on board? That event was very quickly moved. It’s not just same day, either. For example, it’s not a good idea to ask restaurants to participate in something during Mother’s Day Weekend or Savannah Restaurant Week, of which there are two every year. One in January and one in July. A lot places are at full staff to handle larger than normal crowds (that’s the whole point of restaurant week) and now they are being asked to prepare 175 meals and staff an off-property event? That’s a tall order.

I think I need to stress that if a restaurant can accommodate a request, then they will. I don’t pretend to speak for the chef community as a whole. If you don’t ask you don’t know. But my view of the fish bowl is a little different. I talk to people on both sides of this coin regularly. One side can’t imagine how anyone would say no to their very important cause and the other side is generally asking for a little more consideration.

Keep in mind, also, that these are many times people with families. I witnessed a rant last year from a popular chef who had reached a breaking point. The rant bubbled over on to social media. Essentially they had to go into work hours early to prepare for a charity event because yet another employee no-showed. Yes, they’d much rather prepare and deliver with a smile your 250 gluten free crackers to your ‘festival’ when all it cost them was their only 20 minutes of play time with their toddler that week. (Sarcasm off)

What time do you need them?

See you on TV,

Jesse

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.

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