Credit: Leo Chen

This summer, local food blogger Jack Chen (of Fifth Flavor ) had a crise de conscience about his pastime. "I thought about


Fishes + Loaves Wants You to Eat for the Greater Good

Credit: Leo Chen

This summer, local food blogger Jack Chen (of Fifth Flavor) had a crise de conscience about his pastime. "I thought about why my wife LaVerne and I were doing it," he says. "It seemed like one of those hobbies that is totally self-serving. I spend money to go to eat and try amazing wines. I feel fantastic, and I suppose it helps the people that I pay the money to. But I was wondering if there was some way to make my hobby have a benefit." Meanwhile, the economy was tanking and the newspapers were running story after story about the strain the downturn was putting on local food banks.

The 32-year-old lawyer made a proposition to a few coworkers and friends: What if, instead of going out to a restaurant, they donated the same amount to a food bank in exchange for a dinner party at his house?

"We thought it would be nice to give to something good without feeling it," he says. "If people are going to eat out anyway, this is a way to leverage some charity but also do it so that the person who gives doesn't shaft some other organization" (by spending that money out of their existing charitable-giving budget). And, being a blogger by aptitude, he decided to chronicle his experiment in the hopes of encouraging others to do the same.

This is how Fishes + Loaves came to be. Named after the miracle of the fishes and loaves,

in which Jesus fed a crowd of 4,000 with a few scraps of food, the blog documents the Chens' dinners. Jack gives full details of his

expenses, menus, photographs, and money raised. 


On November 1, the Chens held their first dinner party. Eight guests

came for a multicourse dinner, and each of them contributed $50 to the

U District Food Bank. Since a number of the guests worked for a company with a matching policy, the party actually raised $800. Dinner 2 was

held the day before Thanksgiving. Jack received a $300 stipend from FoodBuzz,

a social platform for food bloggers, to host a dinner party, so he

decided to splurge on local and organic food (he spent $130 and donated the balance). The menu included the following:

Romanesco cauliflower with bagna cĂ uda
Riccioli, parsley pesto broth, local mussels

18-hour braised shortrib, parsnip, jerusalem artichoke, chanterelle, sage

Photographer friend Leo Chen (no relation) shot the dinner, which ended up raising $900 for Northwest Harvest.

Jack's been encouraging friends and fellow food bloggers to hold

similar dinners, at a price range that feels comfortable to them and

their guests, and to document their efforts on Fishes + Loaves. There

are three in the works -- one in Seattle, two in California.


he's planning to continue his project. "If the only thing we accomplish

is that we host six to twelve meals a year and each one generates

500-600 bucks, I'll meet some people, I'll get to practice cooking,

and people will have a good time. If someone who's already into cooking replicates the idea, either by reading the blog or being invited to a dinner party, that would be amazing."


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