Credit: Leo Chen
This summer, local food blogger Jack Chen (of Fifth Flavor ) had a crise de conscience about his pastime. "I thought about
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 càuda 18-hour braised shortrib, parsnip, jerusalem artichoke, chanterelle, sage
Riccioli, parsley pesto broth, local mussels
18-hour braised shortrib, parsnip, jerusalem artichoke, chanterelle, sage
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."