Small bites: Cycling for food security

CHEFS ON THE GO: Gan Shan Station owner and chef Patrick O'Cain, left, and Table chef and owner Jacob Sessoms will head west to Santa Rosa, Calif., this May to participate in Chefs Cycle, a fundraiser for the No Kid Hungry campaign. Photo courtesy of Gan Shan Station

Last year marked a first for Patrick O’Cain. The Gan Shan Station owner and chef spent three days in Santa Rosa, Calif., with nearly 250 members of the country’s culinary community, traveling 300 miles on a bike for the annual Chefs Cycle fundraising event. In its first three years, the gathering has raised $3 million for No Kid Hungry, a national campaign launched in 2010 by the nonprofit Share Our Strength. This financial contribution has resulted in 300 million meals served to children in need.

O’Cain now has his sights set on participating in the 2018 fundraiser, which runs May 15-17. But this time around he’s bringing along a friend: Jacob Sessoms, the James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Table restaurant, The Imperial Life bar and Tod’s Tasties. The two advocates and cycling enthusiasts will host a series of local dinner gatherings leading up to the adventure with all proceeds benefiting No Kid Hungry.

Tod’s Tasties will host the first event, a cookout on Friday, March 30, when Sessoms says he and O’Cain will be stationed behind a grill slinging traditional barbecue. “The flavors will be a meeting of my cooking and Patrick’s, so you’ll probably see some East and West flavors,” he explains. Exact menu items were unavailable at press time, but Sessoms says steaks, trout and handmade sausages will be among the selections. Plates will be $20 per person.

Two other fundraisers are scheduled for April at Gan Shan Station’s two locations — an Israeli Cookout Under the Lights on Sunday, April 8, at Gan Shan West, and Tacos, Sangria & Sunshine on the Lawn on Sunday, April 22, at the Charlotte Street restaurant. Details for these are yet to be decided.

“Last year’s ride was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in this industry,” says O’Cain. In addition to helping raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit, he says the benefit created a unique setting for “some of the brightest culinary and restaurant minds in the country” to come together and exchange ideas. “My outlook on this industry shifted,” he continues. “It is no longer a place where people work to drink and party. Owners, chefs and managers are focused on building a new culture with more sustainable lifestyle practices, high levels of accountability and emphasis on personal and professional growth.”

The gathering also opened his eyes to the issues of food insecurity, which affects one in six children in the country (one in four in Western North Carolina). “Kids leave school in the afternoon and sometimes won’t eat until school breakfast the next day,” he says. “For someone who is around food all day every day, to be able to provide assistance to these children that simply don’t have access to quality food has become hugely important to me.”

Sessoms echoes O’Cain’s sentiment. After 25 years in the food industry, Sessoms says he’s reached a point in his career where he no longer needs to be behind the stove every day. “The best thing for me to do is to spend time both growing my business, but also growing my impact on the broader community.”

Classic Cookout with Jacob and Patrick on the Grill begins at 6 p.m. Friday, March 30, at Tod’s Tasties, 102 Montford Ave. For details, visit avl.mx/4si. Israeli Cookout Under the Lights happens Sunday, April 8, at Gan Shan West, 285 Haywood Road. Tacos, Sangria & Sunshine on the Lawn is set for Sunday, April 22, at Gan Shan Station, 143 Charlotte St. For updates on times, menus and prices, check the Facebook pages for Gan Shan Station and Gan Shan West.

Well Played Board Game Café’s first anniversary

On Friday, March 30, Well Played Board Game Café will host a party to celebrate its first year in business. The festivities will include Foothills Meats hot dogs grilled on the front patio for $3, plus the release of Draft-a-Dragon, a new game designed by Well Played’s head gamemaster, Tanner Johnson. “We’re so thankful for the overwhelming support we’ve received from the Asheville community in our first year of business, and we couldn’t be more excited for the future,” says co-owner Cortland Mercer.

The celebration starts at 7 p.m. Friday, March 30, at Well Played Board Game Café, 58 Wall St. For more information, visit wellplayedasheville.com.

District Wine Bar opens in the RAD

“We wanted to create a space where you can bring your friends, relax and enjoy a wide variety of wines, a rotation of local art, little bites and even watch the trains go by,” says District Wine Bar co-owner Lauri Nichols in a recent press release. The venue offers boutique wines from around the world as well as European beers, and there are plans to add breads and spreads, cheese boards and charcuterie to its menu. Nichols, an Asheville native, opened the space with her husband, Barrett, on March 10.

District Wine Bar is at 37 Paynes Way, Suite 009. For more information, visit avl.mx/4sk.

Nine Mile expansion

Nine Mile’s Montford location recently reopened after closing for renovations on Feb. 19. The opportunity to enlarge the restaurant’s footprint came when former neighbor Harmony Interiors relocated. “We were able to knock out the wall and expand the bar,” says owner Nate Ray. The new space will function as a lounge and merchandise area. In the coming weeks, the restaurant will also increase its draft beer selection from four to 14 taps.

Nile Mile is at 233 Montford Ave. and 751 Haywood Road. For more information, visit avl.mx/4sj.

Passing of Little Pigs Bar-B-Q founder

Little Pigs Bar-B-Q announced the passing of its founder Joseph Swicegood on Thursday, March 22. Details were not available at press time, but according to the restaurant’s Facebook page, Swicegood was 91-years-old. The announcement on the social media platform received hundreds of reactions and shares. Swicegood opened Little Pigs in 1963. The restaurant’s marquee reads: “We will miss you Joe.”

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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