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The hashtag made it possible for farmers and chefs to tweet in advance about the event to notify potential business partners of their attendance, be aware of who was in the room during the event, and connect with an elusive contact in person—all of which will become even more important as the event grows bigger.Even with technology and exponentially multiplying websites attempting to connect farmers with buyers, getting everyone in a room at a set time and location is vital for independent chefs and small farmers, as both groups work with small margins in risky businesses with passionate personalities and unreliable schedules. But unlike the State of the Union there were no dry speeches, only cold beer, fingers flying over smartphones, and speed dating. Hopefully at least one toque was hidden in an undisclosed location to keep Washington’s restaurant world alive in case something happened to us. The area’s best chefs from haute spots like the Inn at Little Washington, 1789, and local-chain-turned-national sweetgreen squeezed in to one location along with the region’s top farmers and food artisans.—a bell rings and everyone must move on to the next person. Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture in Alexandria, Virginia, is preparing for its second Farmer-Chef Speed Dating session this fall, after a wildly successful first meeting.
This is especially critical in a city with no regional food hub, aka a central and consistent location for small producers to sell to both chefs and consumers. If a farmer has a ton of strawberries and a chef visiting the food hub doesn’t need all of them, then the home cook gets to buy some pints, giving every average person restaurant-quality ingredients and farmers the ability to easily sell extras. Back in February, one chef was overheard offering to do a tasting of a chicken farmer’s wares at his restaurant for a bunch of other chefs, so the farmer could sell to the competing restaurants, just to ease the farmer’s transportation costs.
As with the speed dating session, technology plays a key role, notifying consumers of a bumper crop of inexpensive corn or special offering of foraged morel mushrooms for one day only. In the notoriously cutthroat restaurant industry, perhaps sustainability may rank right up there in importance with a great review.
Join us on Tuesday, June 19 for an end-of-the-season soiree featuring a slide-show of cell phone photography, hors d-oeuvres, drinks, and good cheer!
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