LEXINGTON, Ky. — The fourth annual FEAST (Food Equity and Access Sustains Tomorrow), presented by VisitLEX and the Ouita Michel family of restaurants, will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 10 at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington.
FEAST, a celebration initially dreamed up by Central Kentucky’s own Chef Ouita Michel, will spotlight exceptional food from top women chefs across the country and region. Each chef will create a signature dish sampling featuring locally sourced ingredients. Ouita met the four featured chefs in 2016 at the James Beard Foundation Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, a collaborative retreat for chefs who work to improve the world’s food systems. These same four return every year to support Ouita and FoodChain at FEAST.
“It means so much to me that these women, who are all culinary talents in their own rights, are willing to lend their time and skills to this event in Lexington,” Michel said. “Every year the chefs exceed our expectations with creative, vibrant dishes that capture their own unique flavors and techniques. But even more, each of these ladies are also committed to food justice in their home communities, using their well-earned spotlights to highlight ways in which chefs can cultivate change for a more equitable and sustainable local food system.”
“It is an honor to be part of FEAST, and we are thrilled with the enthusiastic support from such amazing female chefs in our community and throughout the country,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX. “Reflecting on the contributions women have made to society as we celebrate the passage of the 19th amendment, this year takes on special meaning.”
The event supports FoodChain, a Lexington nonprofit that was founded in 2011 by Lexington-native, Rebecca Self. The organization works to forge links between fresh food and community through education and demonstration of sustainable food systems. As part of this effort, they operate the state’s first indoor aquaponics system, which has produced nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh food. FoodChain also operates a Teaching & Processing Kitchen in the Bread Box at the intersection between West Sixth St. and Jefferson St., providing fresh ingredient cooking classes for area youth and families, transforming locally farmed produce into longer-lasting, convenient, and affordable processed products, and training underemployed residents to gain employment in the local food sector. FoodChain has provided almost 50,000 hours of education on innovative food production and preparation methods to residents from the surrounding food desert community.
“Not only did FoodChain have the good fortune with Ouita as one of our founding board members, but her magnetism has drawn even more talent to the region, helping to showcase the incredible agricultural assets and food system changes underway here in Central Kentucky,” said Self. “Over the years, FEAST has become an annual highlight, providing guests with spectacular food and drink, while also raising awareness of forward-thinking solutions to bring fresh food access and education to food insecure families in our midst.”
The featured chefs from across the country are:
- Abra Berens, is a chef, writer and former farmer, at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan, and co-founder of Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport, MI. She utilizes her sense of seasonality to show off the best Midwestern farms on each plate. Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables was released in April of 2019 and is her first cookbook, rooted in experiences as a chef, former farmer, and everyday eater. Berens participates in James Beard events and projects across the country related to meaningful topics like food waste and chef activism.
- Jamilka Borges, is executive chef at Independent Brewing Company, Hidden Harbor, and Lorelei in Pittsburgh. With expertise in regional, French, Italian and Latin cuisine, Borges has a diverse and dynamic culinary style. In 2019 she was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a semifinalist in the category, Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. In 2015 she was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star Chef Semifinalist and was honored as Best Chefs America’s Rising Star Chef.
- Amy Brandwein, is owner and chef of Centrolina, an upscale Italian concept and Piccolina, an all-day casual café, both located at CityCenterDC. Her culinary passion is authentic Italian cooking – in conjunction with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Throughout her career, Chef Brandwein has earned many accolades, including recognition as a James Beard Foundation Award finalist for three consecutive years (2019, 2018, 2017) in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category.
- Joy Crump, is a chef who founded FOODĒ as a home-based private event and catering company in 2008, and grew it to a brick and mortar location in Historic Downtown Fredericksburg, Va. with business partner Beth Black. In 2015, they opened their second restaurant Mercantile, a breakfast and brunch experience, in the heart of Fredericksburg, and in May of 2017 they added microbrewery 6 Bears & A Goat to their restaurant group. Crump has had the honor of cooking at the James Beard House in both 2016 and 2017, and is actively involved in the James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs for Food Policy, Chef Advocacy and Change.
In addition, 13 Kentucky-based chefs will be joining Michel to represent the local food scene:
- Breanna Baker, LEE Initiative *
- Sara Bradley, freight house, Paducah
- Molly Costello, Otto’s, Covington
- Samantha Fore, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, Lexington
- Toa Green, Crank & Boom, Lexington
- Martine Holzman, Martine’s, Lexington
- Agnes Marrero, Smithtown Seafood, Lexington
- Tonya Mays, LEE Initiative *
- Chelsey Poling, Home Cafe, Bowling Green
- Ranada Riley, Ranada’s, Lexington
- Kristin M. Smith, Wrigley Taproom and Eatery, Corbin
- Jane Thompson, Dupree Catering, Lexington
- Tanya Whitehouse, University of Kentucky Food Connection, Lexington
* The LEE Initiative is working to bring more equality and diversity in the restaurant industry through work programs and continuing education for women chefs.