Triad Community Table fundraiser showcases local culinary talent
By: Nik Snacks
Imagine an immaculate pastoral scene with a barn on a hill in the distance; Round bales of hay dot the countryside as tall blades of grass wave in a light breeze. The setting sun beams on your face. The air is soft and smells sweet. Soft rolls of laughter and hurried chatter pierce the air. The path leading to the main event in the barn is tree-lined with stringed lights ready to shine and dusk to make its presence known.
On Oct. 1, local chefs gathered for one night to celebrate, commemorate and raise money for Greensboro-based nonprofit, Triad Local First. This year marks the seventh annual Community Table fundraiser, formed in part to celebrate local entrepreneurs and business owners. But most importantly, this event was held to fundraise for the upcoming fiscal year.
Triad Community Table is a plated dinner featuring local chefs, restaurateurs, distilleries, breweries, restaurants, farmers and artisans providing food, spirits and entertainment. Each year, the chefs are handpicked by board member, Mary Lacklen, to create a menu. The chef is in part charged with recruiting and creating their back-of-the-house team by asking a community of chefs and culinary colleagues to join in the communal fun. Part of Triad Local First’s mission is to build a strong local economy and a vibrant, unique community.
When asked about the importance of events like Community Table, Lacklen said, “Competitors standing shoulder to shoulder is an amazing thing to see. Food is about family and community. When you build something great, the people will come.”
While ticket holders were able to enjoy the evening dining by candlelight and being serenaded by local band, The Ends, the real main event was behind the barn where dozens of chefs and volunteers set up a temporary outdoor kitchen to feed over 100 guests. Community Table Chef Jay Pierce of Traveled Farmer in Greensboro was tapped last year. He played sous chef to Chef Travis Myers of Willow’s Bistro in Winston-Salem in 2016. Next year’s Community Table chef-elect, James Patterson of Sedgefield Country Club was on hand to be sous chef and community leader alongside Pierce.
Myers commented to the crowd, “Not only are these people, my competitors, they’re my best friends.” Autumn Meachum, assistant general manager Traveled Farmer plans for this single night began less than a year ago.
Meachum also coordinated the front-of-the-house volunteers, servers and food runners and they were all dressed in sleek denim aprons donated by VF Corporation.
Starlight Meadow Farm near Burlington set the scene for the night’s festivity. A cocktail hour featuring family-style plates from participating chefs included bruschetta, charcuterie platters, deviled eggs, spring rolls and mini crab cakes. On the table, to greet all of the guests were jarred items such as pickled radishes and kimchi from Niki’s Pickles, made in Pilot Mountain alongside spreads of white pimiento cheese, potted meat (aka rillettes in certain culinary circles) and toasted bread rounds from The Fresh Market, both partners for the event.
The first course was a “Down East” fish muddle, featuring Farlow Farms tomatoes, Smith Farms field peas, potatoes, fresh thyme and a poached Massey Creek Farm egg. Servers circled around each table armed with ceramic teapots, pouring a fish broth into the waiting bowls of accouterments.
The second course was a palate cleanser of an Autumnal salad featuring Fair Share Farms mixed greens, Goat Lady Dairy chèvre, candied pecans, pickled ramp vinaigrette and roasted mushrooms that tasted like smoked bacon bits.
The third course was equally light with a twist of ingenuity: Hickory smoked red drum fish from LOCALS Seafood in Raleigh finished with a Piedmont-style barbecue sauce alongside family style tureens of Old Mill of Guilford grits and smothered greens that were smoked and rife with coins of sliced carrots and a rich, smoky potlikker. Chef Jay Pierce said he took a risk by preparing the fish this way.
“I had to wait until the proverbial last minute to fire the fish,” he said. “All of the other chefs bought into the concept and agreed to the gamble.”
The denouement of the evening meal was a Carolina tiramisu served in small glass jars. Handmade ladyfingers soaked in organic espresso from Fortuna Coffee in Greensboro, Oak 8 Whiskey from Topo distillery in Chapel Hill, Marscarpone cheese, fresh whipped cream and dusted with cocoa powder.
All in all, the symphony of volunteers would not work without collaboration and friendship. As dessert came to a close, local business owners were recognized with awards and accolades. Triad Local First presented its Small Business Award to Scuppernong Books in Greensboro and Vibrancy Award to Mary Haglund of Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem. Both businesses celebrate unique and vibrant community strides within the Triad community.
When it comes to events like these, there’s enough chicken skin for everyone to dig into and get a taste of the camaraderie. To make your own contribution to Triad Local First or to learn about other events in our area, visit www.triadlocalfirst.com.